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NubeSol’s precision agriculture tech helps mitigate sugar industry woes
Tuesday, 17 May, 2016, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Bengaluru
NubeSol Technologies, a precision agriculture start-up focussing on the sugar industry, has made an early forecast predicting a decline of 32 per cent in sugarcane supply for FY 2016-17 compared to FY2015-16 season.

This is based on an analysis of remote-sensed data, ground surveys and information gathered from industries and farmers. A total of 14.2+ lakh acres of land under sugarcane cultivation is estimated in over 21 districts of Karnataka.

Bidar, Kalaburagi and Vijayapura are the most affected districts. The decline of the sugarcane yield is attributed to 14 per cent shortage of new plantations. There have been only 1:100 sugarcane plots going for new planting as compared to 20:100 ratio recorded earlier. In addition there has been an extended thermal stress. Sugarcane plots have experienced extended thermal stress caused due to long dry spells, which has affected the growth and yield potential for the season. In eight per cent fallow lands, the farmers have removed the sugarcane and are waiting for the onset of monsoon.

At a macroeconomic level, sugar factories had around 20 per cent less cane to crush this year compared to last year. Most affected districts are Bidar, Kalaburagi and Vijayapura. About 30 per cent of the 65 factories have crushed cane for less than 120 days. Sugar factories have incurred high harvest and transport costs as they picked up cane from as far as 100-120 km from the factory, as against a profitable zone of 30-35 km.

The water-intensive crop has been hit by water scarcity in major cane-growing areas in Maharashtra and Karnataka. Availability and prices of sugar has become a matter of speculation. Moreover, factories depend only on the traditional and manual way of surveying cane availability, which may not be accurate. They overlook the cane available in and around the factory due to lack of information.

As the sugar industry grapples with problems that have adversely impacted both the top and bottom lines, a ray of hope comes from the emerging concept of precision agriculture. It can provide effective solutions to alleviate the problems faced by the sugarcane industry today.

This approach to agriculture uses satellite imaging through remote sensing to collect data. The company gathers data on various parameters and analyses them to arrive at cane acreages and plant maturity. This data, along with soil fertility parameters, gives a rich insight into the health of the crop. Sugarcane factories can use this information to take management decisions that reduce costs and maximise cane usage.

This is where NubeSol’s advanced technology platform helps address the sugar industry’s and the farmers’ challenges effectively. Its three products are Remote Sensing Technology (RST), Crop Information Management System (CIMS) and Efficient Logistics (EL). Its adoption in some talukas in Karnataka this year made a significant difference to sugar factories and farmers. These talukas had excess cane production, far beyond the crushing capacity of factories in the vicinity. Farmers were left with their produce as factories were unable to offtake any more cane. Meanwhile, sugar factories in other areas were unaware of the availability of cane in this region, according to the company.

“Our technology solution is able to pinpoint areas with ready-to-harvest cane. Factories which were 80 km away were advised of the availability of this cane. They picked it up and managed to crush more than the planned amount. For the farmers, it was a boon as they managed to sell their produce instead of letting it go waste,” said Suraj Dixit, founder and MD NubeSol Technologies Pvt. Ltd.

Factories can accurately predict cane acreages in their area and recover more sugar at lower costs. They can use the data to efficiently book the cane well in advance to avoid going long distances to procure cane. Besides reducing transport costs, shorter distances also imply higher sugar recovery, as the cane is fresher, he added.
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