Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Welcome Home from Exec Director Lori Cope

SDARL Class IX has completed their International Study Experience to India. 

The past two weeks have been amazing in addition to experiential, cultural and memorable to say the least. I hope you have enjoyed our blog written by Class members. India is the second most populous nation containing 17.50 % of the world’s population.  

As I reflect on our experiences, I bring home an appreciation for the Indian lifestyle. Throughout India’s history, religion has been an important part of the country’s culture. It is the birthplace of five of the world’s major religions; namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Islam. This is visually evident and demonstrated with decorated Temple’s, Mosque’s and Shrines as a tribute to religions’ importance to their culture.   

We were truly immersed into their daily activities and obvious to all of us is their traditional foods of India with a variety of dishes that included dal mahkni – a butter based lentil gravy dish served over rice as well as curry chicken and tandoori chicken. Spices are at the heart of almost any dish. For centuries, foreigners have vied after the aromatic and flavorful seasonings used in Indian cuisine. The most commonly used spices in Indian food include cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, garlic, ginger, bay leaves and chiles. Black, brown and white mustard, as well as celery seed, paprika, saffron and tamarind are also frequently used. Depending on the region, dishes may call for coconut, certain types of nuts and onions. Masala is a premade blend of spices used in many main dishes and sauces.  Lamb, Chicken and goat are the most widely used meats in cooking. Culture and Religion influence the foods they eat, thus they do not eat beef but rather lamb, chicken and goat are most widely used.  

Indian people showed all of us great hospitality by greeting us with fresh flower leis and a warm Namaste welcome. Often we were welcomed to tea, juice or water and traditional Indian snacks upon arrival.  As we depart India and return to our families and the USA, the memories and lessons learned abound and we leave with a greater understanding of the Indian farm communities, their culture, lifestyle and their sense of family unity. Aside from our many differences, there are many similarities amongst people across the globe. We were welcomed and shared our love and a smile and in return we received the same.  If you have any questions about our travel experience please contact me. Until next time, Namaste!

Lori L. Cope
Executive Director, SDARL
1905 N Plaza Boulevard
SDSU West River Ag Center
Rapid City, SD  57702-9302
Cell: 605-216-6178

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Day 11: Entrepreneurs in swine and a diversified crop farm

Blog post written by Lacey Caffee and Jason Warrington

After checking out of our final hotel in India we traveled to the Indo-Canadian Swine Breeders farm.  Sukltwinder Singh Grewal, director and farm owner, and his family have one acre of land, with 200 pigs on site currently and capacity for up to 400.  Every portion of the ground is used with several small gardens of onions, mint, peas and garlic, so they have ingredients for pickling the pork right there. 

Class 9 at the pork farm.

Scott Biskeborn and Kara Kayser sampling  some of the
pickled pork products
Majority of the hogs are shipped to the northeast, where the pork consumption is the highest in India, close to the border with China.  Recalling that both Muslim and Hindu’s do not consume pork, and only 1% of the Christian population eats pork, this is truly a niche industry.  The biggest part we need to realize is that this isn’t only the first pork farm of its kind here, it’s socially frowned upon.  It’s thought that the lowest class of people raises hogs or would even consider being around them. 19 years ago when they started this farm, it made them social outcasts.  Now, there are others are possibly considering getting into it, after seeing the profits with so little land.

In 1999 a partnership with Canada was formed to bring swine semen in from Alberta, one of the first breeders to do this.  Breeds used are Large White Yorkshire, Landrace and Duroc.   Semen is brought in standard semen tanks from Canada, this has be licensed through the India government.  This partnership was a first and only of its kind for India. 

Lacey Caffee with some of the pigs

These farmers traveled to Canada and Europe to be certified to AI. The average sow has 13 piglets per litter and they are farrowed out in crates like the US.  Fine straw shavings are used for bedding and each sow had her own area.  They all have to be hand cleaned and they save the manure to make patties, like the cattle.

The seal of certification by the Indian Government
Brian Turnes presenting our host with a small gift.
They formed a marketing business called Farmway Farmer Producer Company, LTD.  They are the processors and suppliers for many pork products.  Their Can Meat products include fresh pork, pork pickle, pork rib, pork chop, pork belly, mutton pickle, chicken pickle, fish pickle, pork soup and mutton soup.  Many people tried the pork pickle and thought it was delicious. 

Honey is another side product they sell, teaming up with Ekom International Inc.  Rajinder Singh Mann is the main manager of the honey enterprise.  He has been to 72 countries and has land in California and the Ukraine where he farms and sells honey. They are exporting honey to other countries including the United States where 500 containers go a year.  Rajinder gave us some of his famous honey!

After lunch we went to Bavnget Singh Kalyana’s farm.  Where he has 94 cultivated acres of wheat, rice paddy, sunflowers, chickpeas, lentals, mangos, and mustard.  The 5 acres of mangos are rented out for 1000 ($15) rupees on a three year contract.  Mango trees usually produce 600 mangos a year.  All other crops are maintained by the family and their 10 employees.

The owner has been doing extensive research on the profitability of the different crops through mapping and intense management.  Maps are color coded, via color pencil, on the acres that have had something applied.  There is a map key on each page, describing the different applications included in the ones we saw; three applications of fertilizer, two irrigation passes and two rounds of pesticides were all mapped.  The fertilizer  applications included N, P & K at different times.  The pesticide rounds were comprised of herbicide and/or insecticide as needed.  The final yields for wheat 2.6-3.0 tons/a and 3.0-3.5 tons/a for the paddys.  He determined wheat was barely reaching breakeven and paddys were clearing 10,000-15,000 rupee, which equals $300/a.  The input costs are just too high in his area for it to be profitable in these two crops, he will continue his research onto other crops next.  

The farm's management plan 
This farm's fields are split into ninety-four, one-acre plots.  We had a chance to look at chickpeas, mustard (canola) and wheat.  There was harvesting of mustard occurring while we were touring. The mustard is cut and laid down in the field for 7 days to dry.  Then picked up and thrashed.  The mustard is used for oil and is primarily used for cooking.  The chickpeas were starting to bloom, and are one of the most universal crops for food in India. Crops are planted in different stages so they aren’t all ready at once, since all crops are extremely labor intensive. Wheat was the main crop we were able to see in addition to a few small plots of mustard and chick pea.  They add mustard between other crops to detect for insects.  The bugs will attack the mustard first, the farmer will notice it and know when and what he needs to spray. 

We walked along the irrigation dividers, through the crops to view some of the fields.
It was a beautiful day to see this farm.

Rebecca Christmann and Matt Dybedahl with our host

Now we’re back in Delhi to wait for a 3am flight.  We have a few hours in a hotel to change, repack and collect ourselves before we head to the airport to check in for our flights home.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Day 10: Tractor Manufacturing in India

India has the worlds largest tractor market selling 600,000 units annually, compared to the USA with 200,000 annual tractor sales.  It makes sense that today was spent at International Tractors Limited (ITL), India’s 3rd biggest company, selling 85,000 tractors a year. Sonalika International tractor lines are exported to 90 countries with 15,000 units a year globally.  They just recently announced their launch into the U.S. market in partnership with Yanmar, a Japanese tractor builder, to share distribution centers and dealerships in the U.S.A. for these small tractors under the label “Solis”.  They currently have 25 dealerships established in the southeastern states like Georgia and Florida.

Starting in 1969, and focusing on “back to basics” and a tag line of “simple, solid, Solis”, their tractors are all small and low horse power ranging from 24-90 hp, to accommodate the smaller acreages and lower inputs.  Along with tractors, they have a line up of implements including self-propelled combines, disc plows, rotatory plows, mobile corn dryers, and cultivators. The Sr. Manger, Sajal Bagga and Chief Manager, Sundeep Kumar were our presenters for the day. 

ITL one of India’s fastest growing companies, being a billion US dollar company, with 5,000 employees and rolling out 500 tractors per day.  70% of the building process is done in house, including plastic injection molding and die sets for the 400 T – 1200 T press. All engines and transmissions are made in house.  No excessive “gadgets” are on these tractors, keeps them from expensive service needs and keeps the cost down.   Prices for these tractors ranged from $12,500 to $24,000.

A Solis garden tractor awaiting export to the United States in April this year.

We were given a tour of one of the main production campuses, which was just a small portion of the 53 acres making up ITL.  We followed the assembly of a tractor from beginning to end.  The first stop was the gear division and the motor assembly where parts are tested thoroughly before moving on.  In here 250 different types of components are made with 120,000 getting produced a month. Next, we went to the press shop, watching a 1200T press operate was a highlight along with feeling the floor moved when it pushed with all its force.  These machines were huge! 

From there, we entered the assembly building, we watched them bring up transmissions from the other building from under ground, and haul engines with cranes from above to attached to the base of the tractor.  Painting is also done in this building, 2 liters of paint is all that is used for each tractor.  We also saw the detailed inspection process of testing, and checklists to ensure each tractor is specific for the country its destined for.

Rear axles and gears coming off the line.
Watching it through the assembly line and just like that, started up for the first time.
The tractors are simple and functional with no power shifting or levers.
They have power steering but manual controls for everything else.
Each tractor is put on a treadmill and run at full speed, throttle open for
45 minutes to heat the engine and test for any defects before it is approved for export.
The PTO is run and the hydraulics are put to the test as well to test RPMs
This was definitely one of the cleanest factory’s we have been in over here, also using more safety precautions than we have been seeing, safety signs were all over and have yellow painted drive and walk way areas.  But, there was no dress code, no hard hats, no safety goggles or earplugs, however they said accidents are only .02% a year.  Average starting wage for the employees is 10,000 rupies per month ($150 per month).  Bonuses are available and have the option to move up in the company.  This is one of the best jobs around the region, and most employees live in the local village. 

One thing we noticed is that no women were on the production line.  They will hire them but don’t have any applicants because women don’t do “technical” jobs.  Also, their wardrobe would be a danger to them. Women are employed by Sonalika, but mostly do office work or are in the Research and Development division.
After lunch we had the opportunity to test drive 4 of their tractors:  a 24 HP, 40HP, 50HP and a 90HP with each having a different implement behind it - a mulcher, disc, rotatory plow and a disc plow. We were able to see how well they handled the implement, how much power they had, how easy they were to operate, and make any general observations.  From there, they took us back to the main office and the ITL staff had questions for us.  They wanted to know what we liked and didn’t like about their tractors, and what we would recommend to make them more attractive for the U.S. markets.  We like the simplicity of use, ease of shifting and the size for the target market.  We didn’t like the turning radius and the roll bar was in the wrong place for some of us. They know for our area a cold start battery is needed, a plug heater needs to be added, a cab is necessary, GPS compatible is helpful and a few other things.

The SDARL women sure left an impression when they all drove
the various tractors.  Indian women don't often drive cars, let alone tractors.  
Bo Slovek taking a turn on the 40HP 2WD with a disc

Jason Warrington on the 40HP tractor.
Lacey Caffee trying out the 90HP tractor and plow
John Kleinjan on the 50HP 4WD tractor with a 3-bottom plow 
Rebecca Christmann was happy to try the tiniest tractor at 24 HP but with 4WD

It was a very interesting day to see the technology and marketing they are using to build a tractor that fits their small field sizes, and lower input farming practices.  Our hosts were wonderful and we greatly enjoyed our time at Sonalika.

Blog post written by Jason Warrington and Lacey Caffee

Monday, February 19, 2018

Day 9: Punjab University and Flower seed farming

Blog post written by Lacey Caffee and Jason Warrington

Dr. KS Think, Director of Research at PAU
This morning we started at the number one agriculture university in India, Punjab Agricultural University, PAU, in Ludhiana. Due to connections with PAU scientists via colleagues at SDSU, Jon Kleinjan was picked up early, met with the Director of Research, and was given a private tour of the wheat breeding plots.  Jon was impressed with the types of research being conducted, noting that the PAU wheat breeding program was doing extensive work with both hybrid wheat and genomic trait selection.

About an hour later, the rest of the class arrived at campus.  We met with Dr. KS Thind, the Additional Director of Research (Crop Improvement), and senior members of his faculty.  He began his presentation by explaining that PAU is one of the most agriculturally advanced universities in India.  Included in his discussion were important facts about PAU, including founding and evolution, undergraduate programs, research and extension, crop variety releases, achievements in crop improvement, and Indian agricultural concerns.  Dr. Thind also discussed the agricultural importance Punjab, which is the leading agricultural state in India.  Punjab produces 38%, 37%, and 28.5% of India’s wheat, honey, and rice, respectively.

The key takeaways included the advanced status of PAU in mechanization, soil health issues, and plant breeding.  Surprisingly, PAU researchers are in favor of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and hope through the education process to alter any negative sentiment from the general public.  They are promoting more machinery usage and implementing better cultural practices, including no-till for wheat following rice.  And, alternative uses for wheat and rice straw that don’t include burning the fields and creating air pollution.

After our discussion, we were taken on a short tour by Dr. Grueupkar Singh, Assistant Professor of the Agriculture Biotech Research facility.  Researching disease resistance in plants, they use jars to grow clones of different kinds of plants in order to develop and test new varieties which can be released to farmers for production.  We saw them in several different growth stages.  Dr. Yogesh Vikal, Sr. Geneticist, showed us around the room where they do the gene mapping. 
Genetic clones growing in the lab
Showing us some of the projects being worked on

Rob Thuringer inspecting one of the samples.
Concluding our tour of PAU was a tour of the Food Industry Business Incubation center, basically a commercial kitchen to allow producers to value-added production.  They have the facilities available for farmers to process their fruits and vegetables into any number of products for retail sale, not just informal market sales.  They have washing, canning, and processing available for a nominal fee.  We tried sugarcane juice, which is so well preserved they don’t have to keep it cold.   They estimate most products made there can generate a 40% profit for the farmers.
Some broccoli being prepared for packaging.
Adam Ehlers inspects the large cooking pots at the food center
Our group with hosts at PAU

Displaying some of the products made in the value-added center
After lunch busing to the flower farm, we drove by a place along the road where bricks were being made.  The farmer’s lease out the land and workers make bricks out of it.  They dig to a certain depth level per what the farmer asks.  When they get done, it’s all leveled out for the farmer to plant wheat and other crops. 
Brick layers working in fields along our drive

Beauscape Farms was just beautiful! Avtar Singh Dhindsa and is wife were fabulous hosts.  Beauscape began the flower farm in 1985 and has excelled into India’s largest flower seed supplier.  He supplies 50% of the country’s seed.  On the worldwide stage, he has wholesalers in over 100 countries.  This includes Japan, Australia, Europe, and the United States.  Applewood Seed Company in Colorado is one of his major buyers in the U.S.

 Beauscape Farms was just beautiful! Avtar Singh Dhindsa and is wife were fabulous hosts.  Beauscape began the flower farm in 1985 and has excelled into India’s largest flower seed supplier.  He supplies 50% of the country’s seed.  On the worldwide stage, he has wholesalers in over 100 countries.  This includes Japan, Australia, Europe, and the United States.  Applewood Seed Company in Colorado is one of his major buyers in the U.S.

He had a question/answer session and a tour.  Beauscape focuses on seed production in the wholesale division.  They sell in bulk to other companies; then package the seeds and distribute them for retail. His farm is comprised of 800 of acres in Punjab and another 500 in southern India. This leads them to export 30-40 tons of 650 different varieties of flower/vegetables seeds a year.

Inspecting the seed sorting equipment
Inspecting the flood irrigation channels.  Punjab State has invested
in several large canals that helps keep irrigation water flowing.

After seeing several of the flowers in bloom, we discussed harvesting the flower seeds.  The harvesting is all done by hand; therefore, it is the most expensive part of the whole process.  Manually sorting seeds isn’t the most cost efficient.  Ideally machines are used for sorting seeds.  They had to create several of their own machines, including one that takes the fuzz off some of the seeds heading to Japan.  As we were guided around the processing area, we saw cleaners, sorters, and bagger machines.  The seeds need to be 99.9% dry and no swelling, so cloth bags are used instead of plastic. 
These ladies were sorting squash seeds for planting in the coming days.
Most of their labor is hand work done by local villagers