A Unique Campus Farming Competition organized at Tech Fest Antahpragnya 2020
Hyderabad: Movies are an indispensable part of our lives. Movies make us laugh, cry, cheer, move, motivate, inspire… recent Telugu blockbuster movie ‘Maharshi’ had Mahesh Babu’s character take to farming, leaving his job as the CEO of a large MNC. The movie showcased Weekend Farming, a concept which became popular with techies and other professionals and inspired them to volunteer and help farmers in their work. It caught on well with the next generation.
Now RGUKT, Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies (RGUKT), Basar, Telangana gone one step ahead and is turning some of its Engineering students Campus Farmers. Towards this end, it has organized a first of its kind of a contest “Campus Farming” as part of its Antahpragnya 2020.
250 Engineers are participating in it. It is an on Campus Cultivation Competition. Towards this end the premier educational institute RGUKT arranged them 1.5 acre land.
A team of students who call themselves as ‘Techies for Karshaks’ have taken up campus farming. Mind you, they are not agricultural student but engineering students from different streams — Mechanical, Civil, Metallurgy, Chemical, Electrical, Electronic, Computer Science at Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies (RGUKT), Basar, Telangana.
The students, numbering 250, majority of them girls have enrolled for ‘Campus Farming’ competition as part of the “Antahpragnya 2020”, India’s biggest rural technical festival to be held at Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies (RGUKT), in the temple city of Basar, which is 180 kms away from Hyderabad. While most of the students hail from rural background they do not have any first hand agricultural exposure.
Altogether nine teams including two PUC (Pre University Course) teams are competing for the championship. It all began as an idea for Aditya, Jagadeshwar, Srikanth, Sandeep who then mooted the idea to the central team. Who jumped at it! Then followed allocation of 1.5 acres of land and leveling it.
Nine teams comprising 20-30 members in each team began their cultivation by sowing Spinach seeds in December. But for their bad luck, they too had to face bad weather which delayed the process. Then seeds were sown. But stray dogs played havoc in the fields. Fencing was not possible as it involved cost. Their campus provided tractor to plough the fields. They used another agricultural device designed by RGUKT students that does three jobs… ploughing, sowing and spraying.
Fortunately being a fertile land they never had to face problem like nutrients deficiency in soil, pests, etc. It goes without say that no fertilizers what so ever, even organic ones were not used.
30-35 days since the crop was sowed it has reached the stage to judge the quality of the crop by 150 farmers invited to decide the champions. We just spent Rs.3600/- on seeds says Aditya Alladi, who leads along with his team the initiative. The nine teams comprised 225 students invested roughly 1080 man hours to reach the stage where the crops are today.
The experience of the participants is so unique. Though many being children of farmers, never knew their plight as their parents ever shared with them. Involving in this initiative, we realized how hard it was for our parents. Our parents never let us know what they have been going through, shared Srikanth, another team member.
Another unique dimension to this novel competition was different perspectives it bought to the table by students from different streams. For example, electrical engineering students leveraging sensors for better farming. Chemical engineers by way of soil testing, shared Sandeep.
The outcome of the competition will not stop this initiative. We will continue this in future as well. This is the first ever novel campus farming contest held in India. This must inspire colleges with land at their disposal to seriously introduce campus farming as it is done in the west, commented Aditya.
Campus Farming Competition is a novel competition which is unheard of before. The AGRI CHAMPIONSHIP will be decided and judged by the farmers who come to the event, informed the student organisers of the event.
The students themselves came up with the idea of ‘Techies for Karshak’. They are not shy of agriculture now, observed a faculty member at RGUKT.
The weekend farming concept featured in movie has become a trend and inspiring for us to take up the Agriculture Challenge, commented a student who is coordinating the event. The inspiration of the film is evident from the fact the promo made to promote ‘Techies for Karshak’ initiative used few clips from the movie and the dialogues.
The experiential learning they gain from this unique campus farming competition, the knowledge and skills they will acquire and apply shall help them to research and develop tools, products or services that will prove to be beneficial to the farmers, states Dr. A. Ashok, IAS, Vice Chancellor, RGUKT-Basar.
Inspired by weekend farming in the movie, we want to turn some students as campus farmers voluntarily. This will enable us to integrate students with the community and most important part of the community—a farmer, observed Mr. Swapnil Jangale, Convener of Antahpragnya 2020.
Students working in the farm promotes sustainability. It demonstrates students’ commitment to sustainability. It promotes campus wellness and engages the campus community, added Dr A. Ashok.
T. Rakesh Reddy, Asst. Professor, Bio Science and Bio Engineering Department, RGUKT-Basar and Coordinator – Innovation Incubation Entrepreneur Development cell who guided the students in there endeavour of cultivation said that the learning from this experience will pave way for tools and app development which will be helpful to the farmers. Nirmal District Collector had already ordered some machines made by our students earlier viz. Seed Sowing Machines and Straw Bailing Machine.
We have government employees. How about ‘Government Farmers’? asked students working on ‘Techies for Karshak’ activity of Antahpragnya 2020 Rural Technical Fest. A brilliant idea given their age. Why don’t we bring farmers under government fold? We have more than 33 lakh acres of government land across the country. More than half of that is barren and is not useful to anyone. This can be made use of by using technology and engineers. This can effectively use Government land and can generate more employment, explained the young students.
Similarly ‘Techies for Karshak’ students can start gardens in the campuses, shares P. Hari Babu, Co-Convenor-Antahpragnya 2020. I heard of a Student Garden Guide published some time ago to provide guidance to students starting gardens on campuses, he stated.
In another associated event, students will spend a day with the farmers in a nearby locality, film their entire day, and interview them at the end on their problems and the solutions they look for. The winners will be adjudged for the most creative and accurate documentary inform A. Sandeep, R. Jyothsna, MSVN Sai and Keerthana, the coordinators of the event.