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To IIT alumni Shashank Kumar and Manish Kumar,  quitting their plum corporate jobs in 2010 and moving to their village in Vaishali district in Bihar to help farmers turn agriculture into a profitable venture was “a call of land”. To the farmers, however, their company Farms n Farmers could spell the difference between loss and profit.

Down To Earth reports that Shashank, a statistician, and Manish, a textile engineer, have been working with farmers of Vaishali, Muzaffarpur, Banka and Hajipur to turn farming into a profitable venture.

Farmers in the hinterlands of Bihar prefer sowing labour-intensive paddy and wheat. They do not grow for the market and have little idea about high-value crops. Then there are obvious problems like small landholdings and reluctance towards new farming techniques. “We realised the problem lies in the gap between demand and the produce” said Shashank.

Young farmers agreed to experiment, though on a small portion of their fields. The duo also told the farmers about storage facilities and packaging and processing techniques so that they could earn higher prices for their produce. Varun Singh is one such farmer from the IITians’ village who grew baby corn on one-tenth of his farmland last year. The earning from baby corn was impressive. This year Varun’s father has allowed him to grow capsicum, another vegetable in demand in cities, along with baby corn.

Though at a nascent stage, their venture has been taken note of by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, which has offered them access to its farmers’ clubs. This has enabled them to interact with large groups of farmers and understand the problems better.

“There is a severe resource and information crunch in Bihar. Weather updates are difficult to get despite 95 per cent of farmers depending on rain,” said Manish. In the next few years, they plan to set up a call centre to advise farmers on crop diseases and right planting schedules. To begin with, they have prepared a database of farmers and send them reminders through SMS about when to buy seeds or irrigation methods.