Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company was established with the primary aim of enhancing the livelihood of tribal smallholder farmers dependent on rain-fed agriculture through making their farming systems more profitable and sustainable. Chetna promotes organic cotton farming and alongside undertakes participative research on the best package of practice depending on the agro-climatic conditions, including seed trials to improve productivity and marketability of farmers produce. Here is a case study of how SourceTrace’s digital solutions have supported this vision and helped overcome some of the deep-rooted problems in the sector.
To appreciate the value and impact of Chetna’s vision and work and what SourceTrace has enabled for it, we need to go back to what was going on in the cotton world. Cotton is the friendliest fibre on the skin, but ironically, an industry for which things had started going horribly wrong. The situation reached a tragic low point when instances of hundreds of debt-ridden cotton farmers committing suicides across the cotton-producing states of India came to light. As a resource-heavy crop, it sucks up huge amounts of water, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. Even the adoption of Bt transgenic technology began to be overrun by pest attacks, over and above the unsustainable land and water use. Poor rainfall, lack of good quality seeds and lack of access to credit added to the calamity. Farmers were unable to afford the increasing rates of production of cotton, and several hundred of them drove themselves to the final end.
There could not have been a more urgent stimulus to shift the narrative to a financially and ecologically sustainable one. Organic cotton became that alternate narrative. Organic cotton can bring sustainable and regenerative practices in cotton farming. Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company is an enterprise that wholly embraces organic cotton production in India. Their farms are spread across Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. The company manages a production area of 43,500 hectares and handholds farmers to form their own farmer groups; which ultimately promotes collective bargaining in the market.
Organic cotton production in India
Only 1 percent of India’s cotton production is organic, but it is the world’s largest producer, producing 56 percent of the world’s organic cotton. Despite organic cotton cultivation incurring lower input costs, and is safe and environment-friendly, its cultivation faces certain deep-rooted challenges like lack of availability of seeds, lack of transparency in the supply chain and market linkage. Such a situation often pushes the need to find a solution in the form of a robust technology platform. What Chetna needed was traceability to accredit that its produce was organic, so as to appeal to ethical fashion brands. Keeping up with all the tracking and field operations using manual paper-based method was proving difficult. There was also no real-time complete overview available. Moreover, farmer’s empowerment and visibility to global markets, which is one of the most important goals, required an enabling platform that could bring both sides together.
SourceTrace found that manual paper-based systems not sufficient to track the field level information. Non-availability of real-time information was a problem for the management to take decisions and provide the support required to the farmers.
By deploying SourceTrace’s solution, Chetna were able to achieve transparency in their production as well as show traceability of the source of cotton to its buyers. Individual farmer data is linked by ID number to cooperative sales data collected on SourceTrace’s platform and attached to raw cotton truckload deliveries to the Chetna’s gins. Ginning is completed in small batches, resulting in sequential bale numbers that can be traced to approximately seven concurrent truckloads of raw cotton. Bales are given lot numbers and loaded into trucks for delivery to spinners, each containing approximately 100 bales. Each bale is linked to a lot number and the lots are linked directly to 100 percent real farmer data growing the organic cotton. SourceTrace application enhances Chetna’s transparency in production, procurement and flow of goods throughout the value chain.
SourceTrace first digitized the Internal Control System, an internal system to regulate the functioning of a farmer group. During this process, unique IDs were generated to record the data of each farmer. The data attributes captured include farm and farmer details, general ICS information. When a farmer brings his produce, SourceTrace’s digital-enabled weigh scale records the name, data, quantity, area and time of the transaction. So there is in-built integrity in the transaction
The product is then subjected to quality checks and grading, followed by a receipt generated to individual farmers and subsequent digital payment to farmers’ bank accounts. The trucks then transport the produce to ginning units equipped with geo-location tracker, and digital documents for transport and export permits. At the ginning unit, a digital register tracks inward and outward process details. From the ginning unit, the cotton is transported to the spinning unit. With digital dispatch records and bale-number-wise packing lists, this entire system enables traceability from seed cotton to bale.
Deploying SourceTrace solutions has enabled gin-level traceability from spinner receiving point all the way down to farmers. It has enhanced Chetna’s transparency in production procurement system and flow of goods throughout the value chain. It has helped real-time data collection and accurate information that helps Chetna to monitor the production of organic cotton in an efficient manner.
Monitoring and evaluating improvements in social and environmental practices throughout the sustainable agriculture value chain becomes possible.
The application has also enhanced Chetna’s transparency in production, procurement system and flow of goods throughout the value chain. The solution has provided more than 8000 farmers with a sustainable and guaranteed market, and premium pricing for their organic cotton.
“SourceTrace’s platform helped digitize the end-to-end value chain all the way from the farm to the brands taking possession of the bales. Chetna could distinguish itself in the market and gained customer loyalty and premium pricing in a sustainable manner.” – Nanda Kumar, COO, Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company Ltd
The shift to organic cotton would not have come full circle, without the push from the consumer segment. Though it’s a niche group of environmentally conscious consumers who prefer sustainable cotton, the trickle-down effect has begun. Companies are using tracking of products to reassure their customer on eco/ organic accreditation, country of origin, authenticity of brand, corporate governance policies, and a clothing range that is “green accredited”
Today, at SourceTrace we’re happy to share our moment of pride and fulfillment, having made it as the cover story in the Food and Beverage Tech Review.