Integrated farming for low residue agro products

Kathmandu, Feb. 28:Despite having natural landscapes and agricultural diversity, Nepal grapples with a myriad of challenges in its food system. 

Issues ranging from post-harvest loss, waste management, food safety concerns to widespread food insecurity have underscored the urgent need for innovative solutions to transform the country’s agricultural sector.

These challenges affect the well-being of both the farmers and the consumers, as well as the economic and environmental sustainability of the country.

Transforming agricultural sector in Nepal

Amidst these challenges, FreshKTM emerges as a pioneering force, committed to reshaping Nepal’s agricultural landscape through technology-driven initiatives and sustainable practices.

Founded in 2020, FreshKTM, Nepal’s first and only end-to-end fresh supply chain, is now working with around 10,000 farmers, who produce safe and healthy food with modern technology.  

In three years, FreshKTM now encompasses everything from farm operations to harvesting produce, transportation of the products, food safety, packaging and retail.

FreshKTM has succeeded in implementing an integrated farming model, where it combines crop cultivation, livestock rearing, and organic waste management into a holistic and interconnected system.

The farmers associated with FreshKTM sell their products directly to retailers through this platform, said Sandip Adhikari, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of FreshKTM Private Limited.

It also has its outlets, where it delivers fresh and quality produce to its customers. Likewise, it has been employing about 200 persons in its outlets and farms. 

“Our vision is to design an agricultural produce value chain that contributes to raising the income of farmers and achieving food self-sufficiency in Nepal through local production for local consumption,” he said.

Similarly, it aims to reduce post-harvest loss and waste, and to provide nutritious and affordable food to every kitchen in Nepal, he added.

He said that FreshKTM was not just a fresh produce supplier, but also an innovator and a catalyst for change in the agricultural sector of the country.

Integrated farming model

To implement an integrated farming model, Fresh KTM has a large farm in Rautahat district, where it grows around 25 items of vegetables, including cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicum, okra, chilli and some cereal crops, such as wheat and maize. 

It has reared 200 plus buffaloes, which provide milk and meat, as well as manure and urine for organic fertilisers and bio-pesticides. “We plan to increase buffaloes to 500 this year,” said Adhikari.

“We use the remaining parts of the crops to feed the livestock, thus reducing waste and providing nutrition. The integrated farming model improves resource utilisation and efficiency, enhances soil fertility and quality, diversifies income sources and reduces risks, and increases resilience and adaptability,” he added.

“We are planning to start goat rearing and fishing on the same farm. Our plan is to make the supply chain sustainable and maximize the use of resources.”

According to him, they are also creating an environment to provide jobs to the local people of the farming area and teach them to engage in agriculture by applying the technique to produce safe foods and supply in the market. “We will purchase foods produced by the locals who produce safe goods as per our method,” he said.  

Low residue farming

FreshKTM practices low residue farming, which is a process that involves the protection and growth enhancement of seedlings and plants with the application of organically derived bio-fertilisers and biocides.

“Low residue farming ensures that the produce sold is fresh, safe, and free of phytosanitary products. It is different from organic farming, which does not allow the use of any synthetic chemicals,” he said.

This farming technique will also reduce the environmental impact of farming, improve the quality and yield of crops, and enhance the health and well-being of farmers and consumers, he said.

In the meantime, we use drip irrigation analysis for farming, which is a process of monitoring and evaluating the performance and impact of drip irrigation systems using various tools and methods, he said.

Food safety and quality assurance

Committed to providing food safety and quality assurance to the customers, FreshKTM has established its retail outlets in three different places, where it sells fresh and quality produce in a clean and hygienic environment.  

The company collects vegetables from 18 different districts, including Chitwan, Dhading, Sarlahi, Makwanpur, Kavrepalanchowk, Rolpa, Rukum and Bhojpur.

FreshKTM also has a traceability system, where it keeps track of the food journey from seeding to harvest to market.

It has innovated the traditional supply chain by implementing a system where farmers are paid instantly in cash for their produce, eliminating the dependency on middlemen and ensuring fair trade, he added.

“FreshKTM transports the produce from the farms to its outlets in refrigerated vehicles, maintaining the temperature and freshness of the produce. Transparent and direct supply chain boosts the farmers’ income and encourages them to adopt more sustainable and safe farming practices. It also ensures the quality and safety of the produce sold to the customers,” he said.

He said that FreshKTM has successfully provided healthy and nutritious food to numerous households, positively impacting the well-being of the consumers, he claimed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nepal faces a double burden of malnutrition, with both undernutrition and overnutrition affecting the population. FreshKTM has addressed this issue by ensuring the availability of fresh and quality produce that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Adhikari said that a 30-tonnes capacity warehouse was constructed in Bhaktapur to supply vegetables inside the Kathmandu Valley by storing vegetables brought from collection centres of different districts. Similarly, a warehouse has also been constructed in Rautahat Farm, he said. By now, FreshKTM has invested above Rs. 500 million. 

Reducing post-harvest loss and waste

He said that they have significantly reduced post-harvest loss and waste, ensuring a more efficient and sustainable food system in Nepal.

According to Adhikari, it has been supplying around 20 tonnes of vegetables a day, which is produced on its farm and collected from farmers.

According to a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Nepal loses about 35 per cent of its fruits and vegetables during post-harvest handling and storage.

Thanks to the supply chain of FreshKTM, it has reduced this figure to less than 5 per cent, saving about 30 per cent of the produce that would otherwise be wasted, he said.

“If the government introduces the policy to encourage farmers and the private institutions to produce safe foods and improve supply chain, it will support food security which is a burning issue in the world,” he said.

Stating that the local production of vegetables meets only 30 per cent of the demand annually, he said that if the government facilitates farmers in production, Nepal will not only be self-reliant but also export by increasing production.

“For the increased production and productivity, the government should ensure the access to finance to farmers, providing electricity supply in irrigation at nominal rate which reduces the cost of production and increases income of the farmers,” he said.

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