Thursday, August 14, 2008


Water, manure and sun enable man to grow all the food that is needed to survive ever since the onset of human civilization in this planet. It is amazing how, even to day the food production is governed by favorable weather conditions, especially with respect to rains. Even in advanced countries, in spite of high investments on agricultural infrastructure the crop estimates go awry many times because of weather. Recent floods in the mid west regions of USA may significantly reduce the out put estimates of commercial food crops like corn and soybean. Nearer home, rain or drought has commanding role to play on production of every crop grown in the country. While water is a critical input, energy plays some role in water extraction, irrigation, harvesting, transportation, storage and processing. In India many states provide electrical energy from the grid to the farmers free or at heavily subsidized cost to make the agricultural operations more productive and reduce the prices of the produce to make them affordable to the consumers. With increasing cost of fossil fuels, energy costs are running haywire and it is time that such cost escalations are controlled without affecting the food production.

Man has a great capacity to out live crises and best in him comes out when challenges are severe. Present non renewable energy crisis also offers an opportunity to meet the crunch situation with alternate strategies. Organic food movement beginning in early nineties is gaining increasing traction and more than 10% of world agricultural produce is expected to be organic before the end of this decade. Same is true with CO2 emission and its devastating effect on the very survival this planet. It is incumbent upon the comity of nations that constitute the civilization to day to cut down or reduce emissions drastically in the coming years. Fossil fuels constitute the biggest threat to the global environment and progressive reduction in their consumption is a universal goal. India can make significant contributions in this area by drastically curtailing the use of non renewable sources of energy, especially in areas like agriculture, even if this sector is not a major pollution source.

The terminology 'Windy Foods' is used here to cover foods produced predominantly using wind energy which can be tapped easily in India. A subtle change in the policy will enable the farming community to go in for wind energy in a big way in future. It is true that initial capital investment is high for installing wind turbine system and how far it is capable of being scaled down to the level of small farmers is a relevant issue to be considered. Wind energy to day accounts for 1% of world energy which is growing @30%per year,expected to reach 100 giga watts by end of 2008, enough for meeting the needs of 150 million homes. The world potential is estimated to be 235 giga watts on shore and 750 giga watts off shore while another estimate puts it at 72 trillion giga watts. The potential in India is projected at 45 giga watts out of which 8 giga watts have already been tapped, giving the country fourth place globally. Denmark is the pioneer in the area and about 20% of their total energy needs come from wind generators. They also supply state of the art technology and equipment for wind energy turbines, with more than 70% of the currently operating plants in the world originating from this country.

China is reported to have about 60 wind farms with 2000 wind turbines generating 1300 mega watts of energy and a rapid growth to 30 giga watts is being planned. Largest wind farm in the world generates 5 mega watts of energy and one of the most ambitious development programs has just been announced by the Mesa Power Company of Texas owned by the energy czar T Bone Pickens covering an area of 200000 acres of land capable of generating 4 giga watts of energy. About 12000 barrels of crude oil correspond to a 3 mega watt wind generated energy. The cost of wind power is variously estimated to be 2-3 times higher than conventional power but the financial cost due to initial high capital input for land and machinery is the major cost component and unless governments provide financial incentives to off set this disadvantage, there might not be any rush to embrace this clean energy system in many countries.

In India the government has to evolve a policy that will encourage farmers to install wind mills in contiguous areas so that the power so generated can be used by them for their own use without depending on the power grid. It is time integrated farms are set up by the private sector players with wind mills as an inevitable part of the landscape to generate and supply power for different functions as lighting, water extraction, water storage, irrigation, processing and cold stores. Foods coming out of such agricultural complexes can rightly be called windy foods to denote its environment friendly nature. The present policies on SEZs, Food Parks and Mega Parks can include a Wind Food Park component also which can be located in selected areas where both wind power and agri-horticultural resources are available. Even fresh land can be allotted for such parks for integrated farms that will make a qualitative change in the food landscape of the country.


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