Interview with Anubhav Das, Founder & Managing Director at Red Otter Farms
Anubhav Das is the accomplished Founder and Managing Director of Red Otter Farms, a prominent and innovative enterprise in the agricultural industry.
With a passion for sustainable farming practices and a commitment to promoting organic agriculture, Anubhav has spearheaded the growth and success of Red Otter Farms, establishing it as a renowned name in the field.
Can you tell us more about Red Otter Farms and its mission of showcasing solutions through the use of modern technology and sustainable practices?
Anubhav Das: We saw a huge gap from the consumer’s perspective where they did not have access to a reliable source of clean, chemical-free fresh produce.
Srishti and I realized very quickly that while the problem was visible at the consumer’s side, there was very limited focus on ensuring our farms kept up with producing the fresh food.
Red Otter Farms was established to ‘pioneer’ future-ready solutions at our farms. We built our farms on the foundations of leveraging modern technology and sustainable practices to address the pressing challenges of food security, land pressures, and the need for steady income for farmers.
By producing good, clean, and healthy produce using innovative approaches such as soilless farming, at Red Otter Farms we are leading the way in resource-smart, sustainable agriculture.
How does Red Otter Farms utilize predictive analytics to enhance its agricultural practices and improve overall efficiency?
Anubhav Das: Over the years, Red Otter Farms has built a robust data collection system around all aspects of production – environment, nursery management and plant growth – across a wide variety of crops.
By utilizing data analytics tools as well as pattern analysis, we have now established an extremely strong predictive analytics core which enables us to enhance production system practices for smarter nutrient application.
Additionally, by analyzing data, we make informed decisions about sowing, irrigation and even pest and disease management. Predictive analytics enables the farm to optimize its operations, minimize resource wastage, and maximize yields, leading to greater productive outcomes.
Could you provide specific examples of the modern technologies employed at Red Otter Farms that contribute to better quality, faster production, and reduced resource wastage?
Anubhav Das: At Red Otter Farms, several modern technologies are employed to contribute to better quality, faster production, and reduced resource wastage. These technologies include:
- Controlled environment aquaponics: The farm utilizes a controlled environment aquaponics facility that mimics a riverine ecosystem, where fish and plants mutually sustain each other. This system enables the efficient production of chemical-free salad greens with high nutritional value.
- Recirculating water system: Red Otter Farms recirculates water within its aquaponics facility, resulting in water savings of over 90% compared to traditional open farming. This technology promotes efficient resource management and reduces water wastage.
- Data-driven monitoring: Red Otter Farms employs sensor-based monitoring systems to gather real-time data on various environmental parameters. This data is analyzed to optimize crop growth conditions, leading to improved quality and faster production.
In what ways does Red Otter Farms prioritize sustainability and smart resource management?
Anubhav Das: At Red Otter Farms, we place a strong emphasis on sustainability through smart resource management. The farm prioritizes sustainable practices in multiple ways:
- Efficient water usage: By implementing a recirculating water system and leveraging aquaponics, we significantly reduce water consumption compared to conventional farming methods.
- Chemical-free production: Using controlled environment systems, we eliminate the need for toxic chemical insecticides and pesticides. Additionally, with controlled nutrient applications, we avoid wastage of nutrients – providing only the quantum required by the plants for their growth stage – ensuring better quality of healthier and tastier produce.
- Soil contamination prevention: At the farm, with our soilless systems for production, we eliminate the risks from soil-based contaminants. Careful monitoring of inputs including water with SOPs set up for quality testing, we ensure continued production of clean produce.
- Zero discharge systems: With our aquaponics systems, and a calculated balance between nutrient requirements of the plants and the generation of nutrients from our fish, we are able to continuously recirculate the water. Unlike other soilless systems that discharge water at regular intervals, our farms do not need to discharge any water or nutrient waste.
By incorporating these sustainable practices, Red Otter Farms aims to protect the environment, preserve natural resources, and contribute to long-term food security.
How does Red Otter Farms ensure the delivery of good, clean, and healthy produce to consumers?
Anubhav Das: Over the past few years, customers of Red Otter Farms’ produce have come to rely on us for our clean, fresh and healthy produce.
The trust that has been placed on us is critical for our growth and we make every effort to ensure that we continue to consistently deliver the highest quality of produce.
We do so with several measures that are a part of our protocols. Some of the measures we have incorporated in our farms include:
- Strict quality control: Red Otter Farms maintains rigorous quality control standards throughout its production process. Each stage, from planting to harvesting is closely monitored and recorded, to ensure the highest quality of produce.
- Regular testing: The farm conducts regular testing of its crops to check for possible contaminants and ensure they exceed the required safety and hygiene standards. Additionally, we often get our produce tested by third-party sources for nutritional values so that our customers get the correct information.
- Traceability: From sourcing the seeds and farm inputs to ensuring our grow systems readiness to deliver produce; from harvesting and packaging the produce at our facilities to transportation in our own cold chain vans, we implement strict protocols. Continuous monitoring of each stage of the life-cycle of produce allows us to ensure transparency and traceability.
- Direct distribution: The farm prioritizes direct distribution channels to minimize handling and ensure the freshness of its produce. By reducing the time and distance between the farm and the consumer, Red Otter Farms maximizes the quality and nutritional value of its offerings.
What are some of the key challenges that Red Otter Farms has encountered in implementing its mission, and how have you overcome them?
Anubhav Das: Agriculture as a sector is marred by challenges. Weather, availability of quality inputs and even post-harvest losses have for long been roadblocks to the realization of true potential of the sector.
At Red Otter Farms, in addition to the general challenges, we have embarked on implementing soilless farming at scale, a vertical of agriculture that is still nascent across the world.
Among the many challenges we have encountered on this incredible journey, two challenges that we have overcome are:
- Lack of technical expertise and availability of trained personnel: Our modern, scientific approach to farming needed technical and skilled experts across different domains – botany, zoology, architecture, environment sciences, food processing, water conservation amongst others. Our core team was instrumental in bringing together the knowledge systems and find a model to interlink different data sets for ensuring a successful deployment of our systems. We worked with partners across domains to find use-case solutions and adapted them for our needs. And we instituted a training program across various functions to address the need of trained personnel. In a way, being pioneers in the process, we have often had to set standards for the problems we have encountered.
- Market perception and trust: 84% of the fresh produce market is unorganized. Consumers are tired of ‘tales of tall promises.’ And the past couple of years, have further increased the fear of quality of produce with issues of health and COVID19 that have surrounded us. Red Otter Farms was in an R&D phase till 2019, and soon after we entered the market, there was the lockdown.
Our efforts for outreach were hampered. However, we strongly believed that we, through our produce, were not only responding to the present crisis, but to an impending crisis of the future.
All our steps including our model for outreach through a subscription system, curating a selection of the produce in our boxes, and educating our prospective customers with transparency in our farm systems, helped build immense faith in the Red Otter Farms brand.
Consistent delivery, week after week, of high-quality produce that was safe and clean worked for us. We are extremely proud of the fact that most of our customers find us through a reference. I believe that is the best advertisement we can place.
How does Red Otter Farms measure the success of its farming mission?
Anubhav Das: Since inception, one of the primary motives for our operations at Red Otter Farms has been to bring a data-driven, scientific approach to farming.
Using a similar approach, we measure the success of our mission through a variety of metrics. The primary metrics we assess include:
- Yield and productivity: We track productivity of our crops through from sowing and germination to harvest. Continuous improvements of yields per square foot of land utilization showcase effectiveness of our techniques.
- Customer acceptance: In addition to regular feedbacks and satisfaction assessments, we evaluate customer acceptance from our subscription retention. We believe that returning customers with increasing values of order baskets is a true testament to our success in meeting customer expectations.
- Environmental impact: At our farms, we embrace all aspects of environmental impact. We measure water conservation, reduction in chemical usage, as well as aim to achieve a carbon neutral footprint. Reducing environmental impact demonstrates the farm’s commitment to sustainability.
Looking ahead, what are the future goals and aspirations of Red Otter Farms?
Anubhav Das: Whenever we look back on our journey, we feel a deep sense of satisfaction. However, as we look forward to the road ahead, we know that we have only just started.
There are many milestones to be achieved. Our vision for the future is a crystal clear – to enable customers to enjoy healthy, worry-free produce and have a large choice that will cater to every taste. To realise that vision, we have already demonstrated our commitment.
As we go ahead, Red Otter Farms will go beyond being a farming company. We are inspired to build a farming future that will operate at the intersection of agriculture, science, tradition with a focus on health, wellness and lifestyle (disease) management to ensure holistic wellbeing for our producers, consumers and for our planet.
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