PepsiCo India, country’s leading food and beverage company, has bagged the prestigious Golden Peacock Award 2008 for Innovative Product / Services for its ‘direct seeding’ initiative. The final nod came from the award jury under the Chairmanship of Justice P N Bhagwati, former Chief Justice of India and Member, UN Human Rights Commission. In the recent past PepsiCo’s direct seeding had also bagged the CII – Godrej Green Business Center awards as a Water Efficient Unit under “beyond the fence” category.
As PepsiCo’s pioneering initiative, direct seeding technology won accolades for successfully reducing water consumption by 30% and helping farmers refine their farming techniques and reduce production cost. Traditionally paddy is transplanted from a nursery and grown under about 4 inches of water, mainly to reduce weed growth. This ‘puddle irrigation’ requires an average water consumption of about 7500 – 10000 KL per hectare for basmati and even higher for non-basmati / hybrid paddy varieties. However, the ‘Direct Seeding’ methodology, which does not involve transplantation as well as ‘puddling’, plants the seeds directly in the fields using a direct seeding machine. This results in substantial reduction in water consumption and also production cost. PepsiCo developed and procured many direct seeding machines and provides farmers free access to these machines. Training of farmers to carry out direct seeding and periodical monitoring of the crops is carried out by extension services staff employed by PepsiCo.
With the success achieved in initial trials in Punjab, PepsiCo has spread this initiative to other parts of the country and over different varieties. During 2008, 400 Hectares of direct seeding was carried out in Punjab, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. These trials are expected to result in a saving of about one billion million liters of water. By 2012, PepsiCo expects to spread this technology to 4000 Hectares and work with 2000 farmers. This innovation strives to benefit the country as it can help avoid the sharp drop in water table, and make irrigation canal water available to more farmers enabling an increase in agricultural output. As direct seeding technology reduces Methane emission, it also makes India “greener”.