While Technology and Tea have commonality through the first letter-T, now technology is extending its outreach in bringing a transformation in the Tea industry. The tea industry needs to be reckoned with and facilitate in gaining the sheen that it had lost during the last few decades.
The tea industry is still at a greenhorn stage as far as technology is concerned and Mr. Bezbaroah is of the view that AgNext’s intervention is a much needed shot in the arm for introduction and broad-banding of technology that would be facilitated to a larger extent. There is a definite potential to upgrade technology in every process from harvesting to packaging. A case in point is that of the Goodricke industry which has invested in sanitation which ensures minimal bacterial infection, a major problem for the tea industry. Other industry players are also working on using drones, and fertigation- the tea industry is slowly warming up to the incorporation of technological advancements happening in other industries, but progress still is incremental and the time is now ripe for disruptive change in the industry.
Tea industry still has an extreme low value of manday as it produces only 650 rupees worth of an output, and this can only be transformed when a balance is strived for between productivity and quality to come out with a desirable product to be welcomed by the consumer.
Dr. Anoop Kumar Barooah, Director Tea Research Association underlined the injection of disruption in tea industry by focusing on following aspects which have the potential to usher in an era of technological revolution in tea industry:
- Digital Tea farming
- DSS based Management Field and Factory
- IOT and AI based smart tea farming to increase production, quality, efficiency and decrease COP(Cost of production) and effect on environment
With climate change becoming a reality and as a fallout-flooding of tea fields has become a regular feature, technology is being incorporated to study the water flow patterns and create catchment areas which would help in cutting down floods and also cut down the bacterial infection in the tea plantations. Technology is more so required as climate change is having a detrimental effect on first flush- most priced commodity.
For Siddharth Thard there are 3 aspects that technology has to address and incorporate:
- Field : Can plucking device be machine driven- it will ensure uniformity
- Factory: two key areas where technology can make change is withering and fermenting and the human touch and perception needs to be replaced by sensors and actuators along with machine vision
- Connection with the market: for tea industry value is in field, in market and in consumer need of the industry. This value still lies untapped and with integration of technology through e-commerce and data mining value addition would really become qualitative.
Atul Rastogi of Laxmi Tea Company candidly underlined that technology adoption is not disruptive but incremental on account of the fact that training is still not focused upon. Adoption of new technology is not broad-banded as regular hand-holding so the technology upgradation chain works in fits and starts. This is an area that urgently needs to be focused upon.
Bijoy Gopal Chakrovorty, President Small Tea Growers Association is quite gung-ho about adoption of technology and he underlined it’s outreach by sharing that it is for the first time that small tea growers have outgrown big tea growers in tea production in the country. Introduction of AgNext’s fine leaf counting machine has got tremendous response from small growers as it cuts down the verbal debate in counting- biggest stumbling block in the tea industry. He also implored AgNext to come up with a solution for water retention in green tea as it was impacting industry negatively.
Prabhat Bezbaroah, Chairman Tea Board of India underlined that every industry that takes 35000 kg of tea needs to start using the FLC machine as a mandation and there is a scope for improvement in machines by adding information about dried leaves as also moisture components. It can be stored in the cloud and the Tea Board could decide the price based on this data. Price manipulation through human intervention needs to be determined by supply and demand which should come from data in the cloud.
The industry needs to focus on these points, as these would guide the process of disruption in the tea industry was how Mr. Taranjeet Singh Bhamra summed up the maxim Technology starts with T.
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