Around 150 km from Lucknow, progressive farmer Atul Singh recently invested in a 5 hp ‘Shashwat Green’ brand solar pump costing Rs 4.25 lakh for irrigation of his banana crop spread across 5-6 acres.
“We expect to recover the cost of investment in a year’s time,” said Singh who was purchasing over 10,000-12,000 litre of diesel annually.
“Solar powered irrigation system is a strong answer to prevailing energy insecurity and erratic power supply in the farm sector that needs to improve its productivity to beat the inflation,” said Shashwat Green Fuels & Technologies business development head Karan Dangayach. Primarily manufacturing solar water pumps, Dangayach said that these pumps have a life of 25 years and are also useful for drip irrigation.
Blessed with solar power in abundance, rural India is now progressively utilising it for irrigation. If manufacturing companies are to be believed, threshing, fodder cutting, tractor, desalination and water purification, all this would soon run on solar power.
Apart from solar equipment makers, rising diesel cost and awareness for solar power has compelled agri-input manufacturers to include solar in their portfolio. In the past 20 months, diesel prices have shot up by 20% to the current Rs 53.78 a litre (in New Delhi). “Solar-based products have a huge market in the remote areas, where they can easily replace costly diesel and kerosene. Apart from irrigation, solar can also help in powering the villages,” said Parag Shah, managing partner of Mahindra Partners and head of Mahindra Cleantech division.
Mahindra group recently announced its entry in the solar equipment business with a new division ‘Ekosol’ with its core market being rural India. The company offers a range of solar products, such as solar lantern, solar water pumping systems, home back up and lightning systems. SunEdison, a New York Stock Exchange listed manufacturer and supplier of solar technology and energy services, announced customised solar water pumps for Indian rural market. Designed by R&D teams in California, USA and Bangalore, this solar-powered pump offers solution for farmers who need year-round cultivation and predictable daytime irrigation.
In a one of its kind product in Gujarat state, Mumbai-based Waaree Group has come up with a solar powered cold storage for potato near Vadodara district.
“We have the demand with increasing knowledge and interaction amongst farmers. We will keep launching new products and expect sales to increase,” said Hitesh Doshi CMD, Waaree Group. Sale of solar agriculture products accounted to 16% of the Rs 300-crore turnover for Waaree, which Doshi said they intend to increase to over 20% with atargeted turnover of Rs 750 crore in the next fiscal.
“We are working on solar run products for farmers. Within a few months, we will be launching the products in the domestic market,” said Lachhman Das Mittal, chairman of Hoshiarpur-headquartered Sonalika Group. The company, which sells ‘Sonalika’ brand tractors, is one of five largest tractor manufacturers in the country.
In its one year of its operation, Bangalore-based Siddon Biotech has been able to sell 50 odd machines costing Rs 70,000 a piece. Sold through 14 milk cooperatives in Karnataka, farmers earned a subsidy in the range of Rs 5,000-6,000 per piece. “We are targeting progressive farmers who can make an initial investment and are aware of its long term benefits,” said Siddaramanna, owner, Siddon Biotech.
The company is also working on solar chaff cutter to cut fodder and solar power hydroponics system to grow fodder and vegetables in water. Delhi-based Jakson Power Solutions manufactures mobile solar generator that is easy to carry and can be used to power homes to farms and even run water pumps. This mobile solar generator runs not only on solar modules but also on battery, grid power and even diesel gen sets.
Arough industry estimate said that over 60 lakh water pumps -submersible and others run on diesel and electricity whereas only 3,000 pumps on solar system. According to one of the green solution providers for agriculture sector, Central government has announced subsidies for solar technology but is not disbursing funds. “Also, state sponsored schemes are centred around the module manufacturers and it limits the solution providers from marketing their products efficiently,” he said requesting anonymity.
Adding to this, Doshi said that state governments should subsidise solar powered equipments rather than giving free electricity to farmers.
In Punjab, for instance, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal- BJP party, is giving free power to over 10 lakh farmers in the state, entailing an expenditure of over Rs 4,778.13 crore.