Known for its grape cultivation, Nashik is a prominent fruit and vegetable hub in India. Nashik’s grape farmers struggle with the weather and the pandemic. Erratic weather and COVID-19 have caused crop damage and debt. Unseasonal rains damaged over 40,000 hectares of the crop last year. Grape farming is complex and costly. The current issues of climate change have made grape farming more complex, costly and riskier. Untimely rains and hailstorms in addition to rising temperatures reduce crop quantity and quality. On top of that, the pandemic has reduced export market opportunities for grapes. To mitigate these challenges, maintaining climatic data and implementing weather forecasting systems at the village or cluster level are crucial. Mobile app-based advisory systems with weather stations provide forecasts, disease predictions, and irrigation alerts. These measures help farmers manage crops and weather challenges.
Under the Fairtrade NAPP strategy 2021-25, the focus on Sustainable Environment aims to develop a Climate Change strategy and implementation plan for producer members. This aims to address challenges faced by grape farmers in Maharashtra, particularly in Nashik where 87.8% of respondents had experienced climate change effects in their regions. It aimed to equip the farmers with weather-related information to make informed decisions and plan their actions throughout the cultivation process while taking precautionary measures to avoid total crop loss. It is also aimed at efficiently managing water resources through irrigation alerts, and reducing input costs, especially on pesticides, through early detection of diseases and pests.
Consecutively, it aims to implement mobile app-based advisory systems and micro weather stations, farmers receive real-time alerts on micro-climate, disease and pest predictions, soil moisture, irrigation, and fertilizer management, enabling them to manage their crops more effectively and mitigate the impacts of unexpected weather conditions.
Aligning to the objectives, a program for piloting of Micro Weather Stations for Fairtrade Grape Farmers was conducted in Nashik, India during a period of 1 year. During that time, following activities were completed –
- The identification and selection of lead farmers, vendor finalization, procurement and installation of micro weather stations, and training sessions for farmers were completed.
- 2 installation models have been implemented i.e., the Individual Model, with nine farmers supported by main weather stations and the Group Model with 48 farmers supported by ancillary units with soil sensors.
- 57 farmers have received a smartphone-based mobile app to receive daily climate alerts and recommendations based on the data. Additionally, challenges faced by grape farmers in Maharashtra, particularly in Nashik.
- Total of 58 Trainings were conducted including 57 on-farm individual trainings by the technology provider at the time of installation of each micro weather station and one Common Technical Training conducted by NAPP with the support of the technology provider at Nasik, Maharashtra.
The program has yielded positive outcomes.
- Farmers can now practice precision irrigation based on daily soil moisture data, resulting in a 25 to 30% reduction in the number of irrigations.
- This reduced the application of fertilizers as farmers provide fertilisers through drip irrigation known as fertigation. Specifically, this reduced investment in fertilisers and pesticides owing to precise application based on daily updates received through mobile app.
- Alerts received on early warnings on the pest and diseases have become a safety net for the farmers as early detection of pests and diseases have resulted in preventive sprays to save the crop at the appropriate time. This will lead to cost savings and improved crop health.
- The mobile app alerts and access to digital tools have increased farmers’ awareness and ability to make informed decisions in addition to their physical observations at the farm. Furthermore, better decision-making on crop scheduling has been possible due to timely weather updates. These outcomes collectively contribute to more sustainable and resilient grape farming practices.
The program aims to empower grape farmers in Nashik to adapt to climate change challenges through improved access to weather information and digital tools. By taking proactive measures, farmers can mitigate risks, reduce costs, and enhance the overall sustainability of their farming practices.
Sanjay Nivrutti Sangle, Niphad Farmers Producer Co Ltd (41599) – I could see the first benefit of the technology within two weeks of installation. There was an untimely rainfall in the month of November 2022 and I have received advance alerts on the probability of rain as well as probability of powdery mildew disease with a recommendation of preventive spray. As I have taken immediate steps based on the alert, my farm was not affected with the disease while the crop of my neighbor farmers in the village got affected with the disease who did not have access to this technology. As I have become independent on the farm management now with the technology, other farmers in the village are now coming forward to adopt the technology and thanks to NAPP for introducing such a timely solution to help us plan in advance to save from adverse effects of climate change.
Pradip Ashok Kawale, Grapome Farmers producer Co Ltd (40108) – Earlier I used to irrigate the farm as per my own assumptions and I was not aware that unknowingly I was either doing excessive Irrigation resulting in wastage of water or under irrigation causing stress to the crop. But now I am able to do precise irrigation based on soil moisture indications based irrigation alerts on the mobile App. It is helping me with exact irrigation as to when to start and when to stop and thereby I could save on water as well as my time. Indirectly it is saving on my electricity usage too.
Nikhil Motiram Zalte, ND Small Farmers Producer Co Ltd (39548) – Technology is highly user friendly, very simple to understand and follow. Now I can do farm management in a systematic way and I need not depend on pesticide/fertiliser dealers for crop protection too. We are very much thankful to NAPP for such wonderful support.
Ashok Pandurang Jadhav, Kaledhonekar Farmers Producer Co Ltd (40017) – Technology has been a real big savior for me which helped save my entire year’s hard work. As there was a rainfall alert during the month of April 2023 which is the harvest period, I could take steps to complete the fruit plucking in time and next day there was severe rainfall. In the absence of this technology support, I would have lost my crop due to rain. My sincere thanks to NAPP for introducing such innovative technology and extending financial support.