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Growing White Gold in Farms

An Indo-New Zealand joint milk startup creates ripples in NCR

 
By SURJIT  

It may be called as a feat of sorts. Starting door to door fresh cow milk supply with just one household and creating within a short span the distribution network covering around 2,000 homes in Delhi and adjoining areas, was certainly a big task. And Binsar Farms, a sprawling cow farm at a village about three km east of Kundli at Delhi-Haryana border on national highway NH-1, has surely accomplished it with their glass bottle packing which was reminiscent of yesteryears’ DMS bottles.

The initiative matured firmly five years ago when Earl S. Rattray (60), a New Zealand dairy farmer cum economist and Founder-Director of “Fonterra”, the world’s largest milk cooperative, agreed to join them

The initiative matured firmly five years ago when Earl S. Rattray (60), a New Zealand dairy farmer cum economist and Founder-Director of “Fonterra”, the world’s largest milk cooperative, agreed to join them

The inspiration behind it was idealism. Three promising young computer engineers from different familial backgrounds joined together to realise dreams cherished by their parents-grandparents. They were from the lineages that had deep roots among communities. The trio wanted to continue this legacy too. The Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi became the meeting ground where during 2004-05 Deepak Raj and Sukhvinder Saraf (now both 36) had been working as interns under Pankaj Navani (41). They would often feel the urge to give something back to society.

Though positioned in different corporate companies by then, a trip to Binsar in Uttarakhand in 2009 helped them to move closer to realise their dream of forming a village cooperative and embark on a road that would ultimately identify them as social entrepreneurs. They initially wanted to focus on Uttarakhand for a lentils-and-fruits-vegetables cooperative. But later, the idea to bring a revolution in the Indian dairy industry clicked.

The initiative matured firmly five years ago when Earl S. Rattray (60), a New Zealand dairy farmer cum economist and Founder-Director of “Fonterra”, the world’s largest milk cooperative, agreed to join them. In 2011 during a trip to New Zealand on his company assignment, Pankaj had a meeting with the dairy doyen. “A warm interaction with Earl led me to share our thinking of forming a public cooperative to which he responded positively,” informs Pankaj. The idealists had found a man who further cleared their vision.

Foundation of Binsar Farms

Together they decided to break new grounds in the Indian dairy sector and laid the foundation of Binsar Farms the next year. This Indo-New Zealand joint venture derived its name from the area of Uttarakhand having same name which initially inspired the trio during their trip. The search for land farm zeroed on Janti Khurd, a village in Haryana’s Sonepat district situated on the banks of river Yamuna where Deepak’s landowning father offered 10 acres for their farm. The place enjoyed proximity to the national capital Delhi and hence its vast market potential. Learning from the experiences of pioneers in milk production across globe, they took a full year for buying calves from different states, especially Punjab. “We planned, researched, and eventually executed our dream,” shares Pankaj.

At present they have been managing a herd of about 300 livestock more than half of which was raised through their own efforts. Understanding the importance of breed, they impregnated cows with high quality semen through artificial insemination. The herd mainly consists of a crossbreed of Jersey and Holstein Friesians. “On the basis of a long term study, we reached the conclusion that this crossbreed breed was better suited for our farm conditions,” discloses Sukhvinder. Reason? It can have better heat tolerance, less expenditure on veterinary and medicinal expenses, better inter-calving period and thus good for reproduction, and relatively increased milk yield.

While trying to imbibe the best practices of traditional milkmen and modern dairy, they not only learnt from their own experiences but under Earl’s guidance also understood the importance of cow nutrition and health. Their in-house fodder production provided variety as well as balanced nutrition and farm practices were devoid of any sort of antibiotics and hormones. For this they not only grew as many as 10 different types of fodder crops like maize, rye grass, sugargraze, lucerne and berseem in around 80 acres of land and also had their own concentrate mix with as many as 15 ingredients so as to balance energy, protein, minerals and vitamins to be given to their livestock according to different seasons and conditions.

They had been striving to execute every process on the farm with technological means and to eliminate human intervention in milk production so as to avoid any adulteration. The hygiene was taken care of while milking. They used indigenously developed parlor based on New Zealand technology and took care of cow’s udders at the pre and post milking stages. This reduced chances of Somatic Cells (bacterial) increase. Actually, this was the vital information many milk processors conceal from their customers. Also, the Binsar Farms laid a lot of emphasis on milk storage and cold chain management. “Keeping fully captive farm and processing together our milk never touches human hands”, reveals Deepak.

Following such practices, the trio claimed to grow a product which was not milk but white gold. That was why they lay emphasis on spreading this awareness among all the farmers so as to fetch better price from the processors. And if that happened, it would be another feat performed by Binsar Farms.

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