Millets find their roots again!

Did you know that millets formed a central part of the typical Indian grainbasket, even until fifty years ago? Today, they have been largely replaced by rice and wheat in mainstream Indian cuisine. As India looks to provide nutritious food to her growing population, AID is helping millets find their roots again.

Not only can millets contribute to a nutritious diet with their high protein and fiber content, but they are also very resilient crops that can grow in soils with low fertility and offer greater resistance to pests and drought-like conditions.

AID is supporting efforts to make it easier to bring millets from the farm to the table. In Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh, Peter Bakos and his team are manufacturing millet-specific processing machines that are mobile, energy efficient and easy to maintain. The physical properties of millets are unique compared to rice or wheat but as Peter realized, there was hardly any equipment available in the Indian market designed for processing millets.

The result was Transfarm Technologies, a company Peter founded for making millet equipment. Their first product is a grader that separates millets from impurities based on size. The machine uses just a small ½ horsepower motor to process up to 1 ton of crops in an hour- something farmers could easily operate by themselves on their fields. Moreover, its integrated gearbox and fiber-sheet build allows for easier maintenance. Transfarm Technologies has also designed a hulling machine to dehusk millets that will go into production soon.

People of Demuduvalasa village in Araku Valley, Andhra Pradesh watch as a grader developed by Peter Bakos and his team is being demonstrated. The graders are used not just for millets, but for pepper as well.

AID has provided financial support for initial assessment of the equipment prototypes and for setting up the manufacturing unit. Assistance from AID has also enabled villagers in Srikakulam and surrounding districts to purchase these machines and process their crops. In the near future, Peter has plans to set up a small-scale processing unit to demonstrate a “Service Model” processing unit. This unit will allow farmers to bring locally produced grain in small quantities to process for their own consumption. Such units, along with facilities to locally produce millet-based snacks, will serve as a healthier alternative to low-nutrition options that currently flood the local market. Peter believes that such units will both contribute noticeably to enhanced village nutrition as well as provide a source of livelihood for the local community.

– Athreya Shankar | March 2021

Athreya Shankar researches quantum physics in Innsbruck and volunteers for AID. He finds volunteering with AID as a means to learn about the most pressing challenges in people’s lives today and to make a small positive difference in their lives where possible.

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