FARMERS don’t know how to use computers, don’t know what the market prices are doing and have minimal mechanisation on their properties.
It might seem hard to imagine but for two Indian visitors to the Queensland Country Life’s Food Heroes Gatton event, this is their reality.
While most guests to horticulture operation Koala Farms, Gatton spend their time admiring the sights of the large scale operation Prasobh Cheruparakkal and Gayathri Rajagopal’s visit held much more value.
The couple are currently living in Australia while Gayathri completes her Masters of Agribusiness at UQ Gatton.
Together they are fourth generation farmers in India where they have two properties totalling six hectares to grow plantation crops and vegetables including areca nuts, coconuts, cucumbers and pumpkins.
Prasobh has completed a tourism degree in the United Kingdom and combined with Gayathri’s studies and experience in Australia they plan to change the horticulture industry in their home country.
“The level of mechanisation back home is not even 30 per cent of what we have in Australia because the farmers can not afford it themselves and funding we receive from the government is mainly in the form of fertilisers or crop insurance,” Gayathri said.
“They say the green house here (at Koala Farms) is all automated but (in India) it is all winds, rain, it’s out in the open.
“They are not having any prosperity.”
Gayathri completed her undergraduate degree at Tamilnadu Agriculture University in India.
A very limited number of Indian farmers even know how to use a computer and for some the only information they receive is from the university’s radio station which releases updates on weather conditions and planting operations.
The government has now created some remote internet stations allowing farmers to access market prices.
“The big farmers who already have the precision farming, they are the price givers and the rest of them are the price takers,” Gayathri said.
“In Koala Farms they said they have their own distribution system so they actually take their produce to the chain but for us there are too many chains between and it’s like we sell it to the wholesalers and then to the dealers and so on.”
With their new knowledge the couple plan to one day transform their property into a tourism business allowing produce to be harvested by consumers and hope others may follow their lead and modernise their management.
Prasobh said there was no shortage of people studying agriculture in India but they moved into banking or government roles and were unable to make change.
Gayathri added that even the youth weren’t interested in the industry which she believed was because they didn’t understand where their food was coming from.