From zero to a hundred million dollar dairy farm
The onset of winter on a November morning in 2020 was quite noticeable in Chattogram's Mirsharai. It was foggy all around and the community of Jorarganj was still sleeping. Only one or two people were seen. I was waiting for Rakibul Islam Tutul, the head of Nahar Agro Limited, at his place. It is one of the modern technology equipped dairy farms in Bangladesh. Tutul, aged between 40 to 45 years, arrived from Chattogram and the young agricultural entrepreneur, who looks much younger than his actual age, stepped towards me with great confidence.
Effective and efficient use of information technology in global agricultural production is already underway at this stage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Information technology is playing a pivotal role in reducing farm labourer cost and bringing the production system into a mathematical calculation. Significant progress has been made in the field of animal resources as well. Great accomplishments have come in managing the activities of this sector by connecting computer, mobile and laptop with the internet. In the last few years, I have written several articles on the use of Internet of Things (IoT) in dairy farms and animal resources. In 2016, I witnessed the multifaceted use of information technology in the research farms of the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. Then in 2016, you may remember a Hridoye Mati O Manush documentary on the use of smart technology at a dairy farm in Chungnam in Seoul, South Korea. No individual is running the farm and a farmer named Kim controls the entire farm from a small control room. And I first saw the use of IoT in dairy farms in Bangladesh at Masco Dairy Limited in Narayanganj's Kanchan area. Later, I saw the successful use of digitalization in an organization called, Shurjomukhi Pranisheba. I also saw the use of IoT at Dutch Dairy in Louhajong of Munshiganj. Nahar Dairy in Mirsharai has set an example of successful use of IoT at a large scale in Bangladesh.
Development work of local breed of cattle is going on in a huge area at Tutul's research farm in Jorarganj. Tutul is trying to come up with a breed that gives more milk by crossbreeding Canadian Holstein breeds with local breeds, Red Chittagong and Munshiganj.
"I get 70 to 80 litres of milk from Holstein cows and a maximum of 3 litres from local Red Chittagong breed," said Tutul.
Holstein cows do not adapt to the climate of our country, Tutul said adding that he is looking to get at least 25 litres of milk per day from the new breed he's trying to develop. Under the huge shed, there are 100 Red Chittagong Cattle and 100 Munshiganj breeds. The process has already taken five years in the 10-year plan. In the meantime, success has begun to come. From the Red Chittagong breeds, 57 new breeds of crossbred calves have been born. But the purpose of my visit was to see his IoT-based farm and it took half an hour drive to reach his Nahar Daily Farm in Nolko of Mirsharai from the research farm.
Tutul was fond of farming since his childhood. He started rearing 300 chicken back in 1986 when he was a school boy. His mother used to help him a lot. All his farming initiatives start with the name Nahar, his mother's name. Later on, he bought two cows and that was the start of Nahar Dairy.
"All my life I thought there is nothing to lose in life. If I can manage the cost for those 300 chicken and roll the farm with those chicken, it would be enough," said Tutul.
"So, I never feared for a single second in my farming career," he added.
If you want to become an entrepreneur, you have to take risks. Those who stands on the brink of profit and loss are succeed by taking the right decision. The same has happened in the case of Tutul. In the course of 35 years, he has developed a wide range of agricultural activities. Now 4,000 workers are employed at his various agro-based farms and factories. Financial success is also wonderful. Annual turnover is more than Tk 1,000 crore (USD 117.7 million).
Tutul has created an aesthetic field on on 35 acres of land surrounded by hills in Nolko like the modern dairy farm in the developed world. Rows and rows of cows of different breeds are seen there. Tutul said the farm has 1,200 cows. Of those, 700 are dairy cows. All cows have activation belts around their necks, with microchips inside. These microchips are sending all the physical and environmental information of the cow to the computer, mobile or laptop. The entire farm is a great example as modern technology is being used in every step of its operation. From food to rearing and examining the health status- everything is well observed with the ultimate use of digitalization and smart technologies. Tutul's farm has everything from temperature control to milking by mechanical means. When the cows are ready for milking, the cows go automatically to the milking parlour in rows. Tutul said he gets an average of 6,000 litres of milk every day. Apart from milk marketing, his farm also has arrangements for making various dairy products. This is the exact thing I witnessed at the De Marke Dairy Farm in the Netherlands.
Everything in Tutul's farm is being done automatically. The issue of cleanliness is done in the same manner and it is round-the-clock cleanliness. Organic manure is being made from the cow dung. Only 60 workers are working at this farm.
"If we did not rely on modern technology, it would not have been possible to manage the huge amount of work, which requires at least 200 people," said the farm in-charge Dr Selim Reza.
They are ensuring 100 percent care of their cows and calves. About 500 to 600 calves are born every year and it is another source of his profit.
Tutul is applying all the latest technologies at his dairy farm. In each step of work, he thinks of his responsibility towards his motherland and cares for the people who work there with honesty. Tutul believes he is getting all his desired success because of his principles. I believe many new entrepreneurs will build their modern dairy farm following Tutul's footsteps which will not only help them, but boost up the economy of Bangladesh.