As the world’s population surges to a forecasted 9 billion people by 2050[i], the agriculture sector faces enormous new challenges. Food grain requirements will jump from 3 billion tons to 4.5 billion tons to meet the projected populations’ needs over the next 34 years, and agriculture leaders face the need to increase crop production to ensure food stability, even as soft commodity prices and high energy costs plague various markets. At the same time, they are also called upon to reduce costs and environmental impact.
Click on the red buttons to get more information!
Many of these seemingly conflicting challenges are even tougher in emerging markets. However, through a combination of innovation, communication and strategic partnerships, it’s possible to better understand the obstacles faced by today’s farmers and help them find solutions. Here, the world’s third largest tractor manufacturer, Tractors and Farm Equipment Limited’s (TAFE) Chairman & CEO, Ms. Mallika Srinivasan talks about the four important challenges and the possible solutions the tractor industry can provide.
1.) Increasing crop yields for food security
Roughly 11 percent of the world’s surface is devoted to agriculture.[ii] Meeting food crop demands requires either increasing crop yields or finding more land to cultivate – a difficult task in many markets, as land is increasingly used for housing or industrial development. Mechanization can increase crop intensity by 5 to 20 percent, resulting in a 15 percent crop yield increase. Mechanization and the development of equipment in the range of 35 to 100 horsepower (HP) is particularly important, to meet the needs of independent farmers and those who need smaller equipment.
Mechanization will help farmers increase yield and also reduce the effort. Today, there are farm solutions that assist farmers to plant and harvest, remove weeds, and apply fertilizer more efficiently and effectively. Each of these mechanized solutions can further increase crop yields without the need for significant manual labor, which is especially pertinent for areas where there are labor shortages.
2.) Addressing high costs of doing business
Labor shortages and rising labor costs, the need for certified seeds, and higher usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides have increased the farmer’s cost of cultivation while crop prices have not kept pace. Increased farm mechanization can save approximately 20 percent on seeds and 20 percent of time and 30 percent of labor costs on fertilization. Lighter tractors equipped with hydraulics, high power density, efficient pipeline and braking systems, and fuel-efficient engines specifically designed for agricultural applications can all help cut costs and improve fuel efficiency.
3.) Renewing commitment to the farmer
As more people move to urban areas, there is an increasing disconnect between farmers and the people who rely on them for food. This needs to be addressed in two ways: Firstly, awareness needs to be raised in all quarters about the importance of farmers and they need to be given the respect and recognition they deserve for the service they render. In addition, farmers need support from manufacturers to help them manage and overcome the difficulties of the agriculture business, which can sometimes be daunting for the small and marginal farmer in emerging markets.
As other companies start working towards this, TAFE has been at the forefront with its JFarm program – an adaptive 200 acre agri-research center located in the outskirts of Chennai. Instituted five decades ago, it was created to educate farmers and increase awareness about the latest agriculture trends and technologies and provide advice on harvesting practices, seeds, crop protection, pest management and other issues to improve farm yield.
In 2015, TAFE also began its award-winning “Be a #FarmDost” initiative which aims to shed light on the farmers and their efforts to sustain the nation and the world at large among the urban populace. (“Dost” means “friend” in India.) The #FarmDost initiative wants to invoke a sense of gratitude among the people towards farmers and garner them the respect they deserve as like any other profession.
4.) Finding solutions through innovation
New solutions and efficiencies can be found through innovation. Tractors in the 30 to 60 HP range with adaptable transmissions and precision electro-hydraulics can cut operating costs while delivering better yield and productivity. Ergonomic and comfort features help farmer efficiency.
One such example is TAFE’s new Massey Ferguson line of SMART tractors, which features all of those improvements and run-on technologies provided by Oerlikon, which include synchronizers, electron beam-welded clutch housings, gears, ring gears, swivel housing and carrier assembly.
By finding solutions to these four key challenges, farmers will be able to increase their yields and reduce costs. However, successful solutions require true partnership and collaboration between farmers, manufacturers and suppliers.
Be sure to watch for our next article on how TAFE is structuring such partnerships and alliances with remarkable results.
[i]Population Reference Bureau, http://www.prb.org/Publications/Lesson-Plans/HumanPopulation/PopulationGrowth.aspx
By Gwen Moran