By Vishani Ragobeer
Rice is one of Guyana’s major agricultural exports but a new agriculture technology company believes that local production can potentially double, without using any additional land, once the plants are given the right mixture of nutrients.
The new company is known as FerTech Inc. The public was introduced to its marriage of scientific research and agriculture at the recently concluded Agri-Investment expo.
Based on information from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), rice grown in Guyana occupies about 225,000 acres of land. Rice is harvested twice every year, with farmers obtaining yields of about 30 bags to 40 bags of paddy per acre- based on the rice variety used.
FerTech majority shareholder Haresh Tewari, however, believes that it is possible to increase those yields significantly. This belief was intensified when he realised that Brazil, which has similar soil and climatic conditions, has been able to produce about 60 bags of paddy per acre.
With a sizable investment over a four-year period, Tewari said that soil types and rice production at 11 farms across Guyana’s coastal region were studied.
Varying deficiencies and imbalances were unearthed in the soils- which varied from location to location.
Importantly, the FerTech team discovered that farmers have been relying on traditional fertilisers which may not necessarily provide the rice plants with the nutrients they need.
“…we have found that these are some of the very critical reasons that disallows us from optimising production,” Tewari told the News Room at the agri-investment expo.
And the company set out to change that- integrating knowledge of soil composition with the knowledge of what nutrients plants need to grow healthily and avoid damages.
What then does FerTech offer?
“What we do is that we come to your farms and we test your soils.
“We understand what it has, what it needs, what it has too much of and what needs balancing and we create an optimal nutrition portfolio with both micro and macro elements,” Kayshav Tewari, a representative of the company, explained.
That simply means that the company determines what specific nutrients are needed by the plant and creates a fertiliser mixture that provides exactly what is needed. For example, if the soil has enough nitrogen or potassium but not enough calcium or boron, a specialised formulation can be created.
And based on research done with these specialised mixtures, Kayshav said that rice yields were better: there were longer stalks, more developed roots and less lodging (weakened stems).
This also resulted in an increase of seven to 15 bags of paddy per acre – that means, more rice has been produced using the same amount of land.
“If we extrapolate it at seven (additional) bags an acre, for over 200,000 acres planted twice a year, you get as much as 196,000 tonnes of paddy extra, which is $11.2 billion to the farmers,” Kayshav highlighted.
With this increased production too, that means that more rice would be available for local consumption and export.
But applying specialised fertilisers to rice is not the company’s only intention. Haresh said that the technology can be applied to almost any crop.
As such, he is hoping to test it at the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo) canefields, potentially proving that Guyana can record higher sugar yields without using any additional land.
Haresh also highlighted that the Prime Ministers of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, Mia Mottley and Dr. Keith Rowley, have also signalled an interest in leveraging this agriculture technology in their countries.