Small scale Bio-Resource Centres For better adoption of agroecological practices

Small-scale Bio Resource Centres (BRCs) can play a significant role in the transition to agroecological agriculture, by helping farmers to use bio-formulations that are difficult to prepare at the farm level. Also, small-scale BRCs strengthen local economy. It is therefore important to strengthen and scale up the small-scale BRC initiative across the nation to facilitate adoption of agroecological approaches by a large number of farmers.

The use of bio-formulations of different types is considered an important way to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides and artificial fertilisers in agriculture. Some bio-formulations, such as Jeevamrutham, Ghanajeevamrutham, Amrith jal, and Waste decomposer, aid in enhancing soil fertility. Bio-formulations like Fish tonic, Sri Amrith, and Upla amrit (gibberellic acid extracted from cow dung cake) help to enhance the growth and development of plants. Some of them also help reduce flower drop, and thereby result in higher yields. Whereas bio-repellents like Neemastra, Agniastra, Brahmastra, Handikhata, Sarvakeetnashi, Dashparni, Mathastra, and Mahuastra aid in preventing and controlling pest and disease incidence. Some of these preparations offer a combination of benefits. Use of these bio-formulations serve as alternatives to chemical-intensive agriculture.

While some of these bio-formulations can be produced by individual farmers using locally available materials, many are difficult to produce on-farm. One of the reasons is that the collection of necessary ingredients is difficult at the individual farmer level. Even for the bio-formulations that can be prepared on-farm, farmers face certain constraints. For example, in rainfed agriculture, farmers may need to sow immediately after rain to complete sowing within the ‘sowing window’. They would require bio-formulations for seed treatment then. But most of the bio-formulations take many days to prepare. Therefore, farmers would be greatly benefited if they had the option to buy these bio-formulations at an affordable price from an accessible source. Understanding this need, a few CSOs and individual entrepreneurs have tried setting up Bio-Resource Centres (BRCs) of various scale of operation. Over the past few years, it has emerged as one of the important interventions for facilitating the adoption of agroecological agriculture.

The Initiative

N+3F, a support organisation with the mandate to promote pesticide-free farming and food systems, has also been promoting BRCs in collaboration with its partners. In 2021, N+3F/NPM Network through its Improving the Market Readiness of Smallholder Farmers Practicing NPM (Non-Pesticidal Management) of Agriculture Project, funded by BRLF supported 22 partners to set up 47 small-scale bio-input production units in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

An experience-sharing session was organised. Shroffs Foundation Trust (SFT) from Gujarat shared its rich experience of setting up medium-scale bio-input units by engaging local entrepreneurs. As a follow-up, an exposure visit was organised for two partners (GSS, and SEWA) to the bio-input unit promoted by SFT. GSS and SEWA learned the modalities of setting up and running a medium-scale bio-input production unit. Then support was extended to GSS and SEWA to set up one medium-scale unit each. As of March 2023, the 68 BRCs have been set up by the partners during 2021-23. A maximum of Rs. 5000 was given as support for setting up a BRC. While N+3F supplied the containers and relevant tools, the partners identified SHGs and organised space where the unit could be housed.

N+3F first focused on building the capacity of the partners. A training session was organised with the support of SEWA, Odisha, an organisation experienced in setting up small-scale production units. The partners learned about the infrastructure needed for setting up a small-scale bio-input production unit, bio-inputs that can be produced, dos and don’ts to be observed, and ways of marketing bio-inputs.

The quality of the bio-formulation is an important attribute that is taken care of by each unit. Soon after the distribution of the BRC kit, partners made efforts to build the capacity of staff and members of SHG involved in the production of bio-formulations. Initially, a meeting was held by the field staff with SHG to discuss the bio-formulations to be prepared and the raw materials required. Once the materials are aggregated, bio-formulations are prepared by SHG members under the supervision of field staff following the given set of procedures. Additional care was taken to avoid contamination during the fermentation period. Once the product is ready, it is stored in a plastic container.

 Management of BRCs

All the small-scale BRCs are run by SHGs. They contributed space for housing the unit and meeting the initial working capital. The members of SHGs meet, discuss and decide on the bio-formulations to be prepared for the current month. Based on the bio-formulations, work is divided and assigned to each member. The work assigned includes collecting raw materials like cow dung and cow urine, purchasing inputs from nearby markets, cleaning BRC tools, etc. A day will be finalised for the preparation. All the raw materials will be pooled in one place, and based on the procedure, everyone will be actively involved in the production process. In some of the BRCs, the cost involved in buying the inputs was paid by one member, which was later reimbursed once the product was sold. The members involved in the production process are paid. In some other BRCs, the costs required for the production were met by the funds pooled by the SHG members. After marketing the first batch of the products, each unit has generated enough funds to meet the working capital requirement.

Production of bio-formulations

The BRCs set up by the partners produced four kinds of bio-formulations namely i) soil fertility enhancers, ii) bio-formulation for treating seeds, iii) growth promoters and iv) bio-repellents. The table below gives the gist of various bio-formulations produced by the BRC units. Out of the 47 units initiated by 2021, 45 BRCs were functioning by December 2022.  Of the 45 BRCs, 26 were producing three or less than three bio-formulations; 14 BRCs were producing above 3 to 6 bio-formulations; two BRCs were producing above six bio-formulations. The maximum number of bio-formulations produced by one BRC was 17. The choice of bio-formulations was dependent on the local demand. Some of the bio-formulations like Jeevamrutham, Ghanajeevamrutham, Bakramruth and Waste decomposer were difficult to produce, as the volume required per farmer was quite high.

Table 1: Types of bio-formulations produced by the BRCs of partners
I Soil fertility enhancers IV Bio-repellents
1 Bakramruth 1 Agniastra
2 Jeevamrutham 2 Belastra
3 Ghanajeevamrutham 3 Brahmastra
4 Potash Sara (Powder) 4 Dashparni
5 Potash (Bael Tonic) 5 Handikhata
6 Shakti shali urea 6 Mahuastra
7 Amrit Jal 7 Mathastra
8 Waste Decomposer 8 Neem Extract
II Formulations for treating seeds 9 Neemastra
1    Beejamrutham 10 Nirgunistra
III Growth Promoters 11 Pranastra
1 Fish Tonic 12 Sarvakeetnashi
2 Sri Amrith 13 Sothastra
3 Trala Potash 14 Tulastra
4 Upla Amrit 15 Lamit

The data indicates seasonal trends in the production of different bio-formulations. Since most of the BRC units were started during late kharif and early rabi in 2021, production of bio-formulations started during early rabi. From the data, it is evident that most of the units started producing bio-formulations related to soil fertility enhancement in the pre-rabi season. When the sowing window opened, the bio-formulation used for seed treatment, i.e., Beejamrutham, was produced in limited quantities. Soon after the rabi sowing, production of bio-repellents started, which were used as preventive sprays to avert pest and disease incidence. Since the scope for summer crops is limited and cultivation is restricted to areas with assured irrigation, production of bio-formulations showed a declining trend in February, March, April, and May.

Marketing initiatives

The first preference was given to the group members for its utilisation. The surplus quantity was sold to the farmers in the same village and nearby villages.

Women prepare Ghanajeevamrutha at pratappur block, Chattisgarh

Initially, products were given free of charge or at minimal prices to the group members so that they could witness the effectiveness of bio-formulations in pest and disease management, soil fertility enhancement, and increasing fruit set. Once demand was generated, bio-formulations were sold on a payment basis. The prices of the products were fixed based on the raw materials used and the labour involved in preparing them. It was observed that the price of many of the liquid bio-formulations ranged from Rs. 20 to Rs. 40 per litre.

In most of the small-scale BRCs, buyers brought containers to carry the bio-formulations bought, whereas, around eight small-scale and medium-scale units sold bottled and labelled bio-formulations.

Some of the partners (e.g., SEWA) started marketing bio-formulations produced by the village-level BRCs through FPOs. This arrangement helped the BRCs to benefit from the ability of the FPOs to market the products in a wider geographical area. Few partners have sold bio-formulations through outlets set up on main roads or near markets to reach a wider set of buyers.

Box 1: BRCs managed by SEWA, Jharsuguda, Odisha

Social Education for Women’s Awareness (SEWA) is an NGO located in Jharsuguda district of Odisha working on rural development, agriculture, health, water, women empowerment and child development. Through the livelihood program, SEWA staff have introduced the use of organic manure and bio-repellents in two villages in small patches of paddy and nutrition garden fields. The local farmers gradually noticed the positive changes and initiated preparing such bio-repellents on their own. SEWA initiated two small-scale BRCs with the support of N+3F in October 2021. Both units started functioning in November 2021.

Neemastra is the first bio-formulation produced, followed by Handikhata. The sale of Handikhata gave an income of Rs. 12,000, which was used as a revolving fund to produce other bio-formulations. SEWA started producing bio-formulations such as Shakti shali urea, Agniastra, Handikhata, Neemastra and Fish tonic consistently. Shakti shali urea is used as a soil fertility enhancer, whereas Agniastra, Handikhata and Neemastra were used as bio-repellents for pest management, and Fish tonic is used as a growth promoter to increase the flower and fruit set. Among the five bio-formulations, Handikhata was produced in the highest quantity (2,775 litres) followed by Neemastra (1.000 litres). A major share of the income was generated by the sale of Handikhata and Neemastra. Members of the SHG gather in a location and discuss the day and type of bio-formulation to be prepared. All the members are actively involved in the production process. Members who are absent during production will be paid less compared to other members.

In the first three months, the bio-formulations produced were not sold; instead, they were utilised by the group members free of cost. The marketing of bio-formulations started in February 2022. Till December 2022, the two BRCs produced 5,100 litres of bio-formulations, of which 4,390 litres were sold to 3,367 farmers. In the process, Rs. 78,925 was generated as gross revenue.

Type of Bioformulation Quantity produced Quantity sold Income generated (Rs) No. of farmers Benefited
Soil fertility enhancers 420 315 5250 262
Bio-repellents 4425 3870 69800 2908
Growth promoters 255 205 3875 197
Total 5100 4390 78925 3367


MJVS in Madhya Pradesh has facilitated the BRCs to offer sprayers on a hiring basis. This, in a way, helps in increasing the reach of bio-formulations produced and also decreases the contamination from synthetic chemical pesticides when the sprayers are used without proper washing

 The results

As of March 2023, the 68 BRCs set up by the partners during 2021-23 have produced 1,15,026 litres of liquid bio-formulations and 36,036 kg of solid bio-formulations. The BRC units of the partners have served 34,716 farmers hailing from nearly 90 villages. Out of the total quantity produced, 50,691 litres of liquid bio-formulations and 15,194 kg of solid bio-formulations were sold to local farmers, generating a gross revenue of Rs. 8,69,637 and Rs. 1,57,647, respectively.

The experience of N+3F and its partners indicates that small-scale BRCs can be easily set up and run by village-level community organisations like SHGs and local entrepreneurs as i) the fixed and working capital involved is quite low (in the range of Rs. 4000 to Rs. 5000 per unit), ii) a wide range of bio-formulations are available to choose from, iii) locally available raw materials can be used, and iv) part-time engagement is adequate for the production tasks. SHGs contributed to the BRC initiative in various ways, like offering space, meeting working capital needs, etc., which enhanced their ownership.

BRCs have also generated income to some extent. Out of 22 partners, 16 could work on scale, producing bio-formulations of more than 2000 litres during October 21 to December 22. Fifteen partners were able to generate a profit of more than Rs.10000.

The experience of some of the partners also indicated that BRCs can supply bio-formulations on a good scale and generate considerable revenue if proactive efforts are taken by the SHG/entrepreneur to meet the requirements of farmers in their area across the seasons. Small-scale BRCs can also increase their reach and business volume by partnering with FPOs and other local formal organisations.

Box 2: Initiative of MJVS to set up BRCs

Manav Jeevan Vikas Samiti (MJVS) is located in north-eastern Madhya Pradesh at Jabalpur Division in the district of Katni with the vision of evolving and setting up an alternative and non-violent economy in rural areas by mobilising youth and women. Under the sustainable agriculture initiative, with the support of N+3F, MJVS initiated two small-scale BRCs in October 2021. Out of the two units, one was housed in a room attached to the Gram panchayat office, and the other was housed in one of the SHG members’ home. The SHG members were trained in the preparation and storage of various bio-formulations. They started production in November 2021. Initially, 11 bio-formulations were prepared in smaller quantities. Then the production was doubled, and six new bio-formulations were added to meet the increased demand.

The majority of the raw materials required for the preparation of bio-formulations were sourced locally. However, some of the materials, such as jaggery, lime, turmeric, chilly, onion, ginger, etc., were bought from the market. SHG members bore the cost, which was reimbursed once the products were sold.

Based on the season and demand, bio-formulations were prepared. Considering the stock of previous months, group members decide the bio-formulations to be prepared for the current month. The labour required for collecting raw materials, cleaning, crushing, boiling, and packing will be distributed among the group members. All the products produced were bottled and labelled.

Once the products are ready, the mithan (field staff) of the village will promote them by showing the samples during the field visits. Nearby farmers will come to the BRC and buy the required products. Bio-formulations are sold through an outlet of the FPO- ALIVE after labelling. Apart from this, nearby KVK has come forward to promote and market these bio-formulations.

Production details for these units until November 2022 indicate that 5,539 litres of liquids and 474 kg of solid bio-formulations were produced. The majority of the bio-formulations produced were used by the members of the group, and the surplus was sold to the farmers located within the village and in neighbouring villages. Out of total production, 43 kg and 1,113 litres of the bio-formulations were marketed, benefiting 903 farmers and generated a gross revenue of Rs. 36,095 for the groups.

Type of bioformulation Quantity produced Quantity sold Income generated (Rs) No. of farmers benefited
Soil Fertility enhancers
-Solids (kg) 474 43 930 27
-Liquids (litres) 239 35 1090 24
Total 713 78 2020 51
Bio-repellents 4071 868 27435 692
Bio-formulations for seed treatment 275 40 1100 40
Growth promoters 954 170 5540 120
Grand total 6013 1156 36095 903


The experience also indicates that the promotion of small-scale BRCs has significantly increased the availability and use of needed bio-formulations by farmers at an affordable cost and on time. This, in turn, would have significantly reduced the use of synthetic chemical pesticides and other agro-chemicals sourced from outside the village, thereby improving the safety of humans and the wider environment.

Some challenges

The limited availability of raw materials like desi cow urine makes it difficult to scale up BRC operations. Bottle bursting due to the release of gases from the continued activity of microorganisms was observed in some of the BRCs when the product was stored for a while. The limited shelf life of some of the bio-formulations was also one of the reasons for not being a part of the product portfolio. Also, some of the BRCs found it difficult to market them on a scale.

The SHGs running the BRCs and their support organisations had limited knowledge of the mode of action and suitability to address different crop-health related issues, the proper way to use them (preventive or curative, alternating with other preparations for effectiveness, etc.), and the benefits of the bio-formulations they were selling.

Many of the BRCs were functioning at a sub-optimal level of production. They produced only a few bio-formulations and there was a discontinuity in production across the year. Systematic and periodic handholding support by the promoting organisations is needed to ensure the quality of bio-formulations and continual operations on an optimal scale by the small-scale BRCs. This includes proper education and training on technical aspects, linking them to local organisations like FPOs and Farmer Service Centres, support for additional infrastructure for scaling up and  support to diversify their services, like selling seeds, traps, renting out equipment, etc., for greater viability of the BRC.

Conclusion and the way forward

Spraying Handikhata in cauliflower field at SEWA location

The awareness of agroecological approaches/methods is increasing among farmers, and they are looking for ways to adopt them. Further, there are changes in the ecosystem in favour of agroecological approaches in terms of: i) more acceptance at the consumers, scientific institutions and State and Central government levels, ii) more Government programs to support like National Mission for Sustainable Farming and PM PRANAAM, and iii) growing markets for organic/natural/pesticide free produce. So, there can be an increase in demand for locally produced bio-formulations, which can be a good business opportunity for local community organisations like SHGs and FPOs and local entrepreneurs.

Small-scale BRCs can play a significant role in the transition to agroecological agriculture. They can effectively supplement the efforts of individual farmers practising agroecological approaches to use bio-formulations that are difficult to prepare at the farm level. Small-scale BRCs also strengthen the local  economy as locally available materials are used, the competencies of local actors are built, and money does not leave the local area as cash transactions happen between the local actors. It is therefore important to strengthen and scale up the small-scale BRC initiative across the nation to facilitate adoption of agroecological approaches by a large number of farmers.



Anonymous, 2022, Natural Farming book, Manage, Hyderabad

Premalatha, Fish Amino-A useful biological weapon, 2018, LEISA India

  1. Priyanka, D. Anoob, M. Gowsika, A. Kavin, S. Kaviya Sri, R. V. Krishna Kumar, R. Sangeetha Gomathi, B. Sivamonica, G. Vimala Devi and M. Theradimani, Effect of fish amino acid and egg amino acid as foliar application to increase the growth and yield of green gram, 2019, The Pharma Innovation Journal, 8(6): 684-686
  2. Chandrashekharaiah and V. T. Sannaveerappanavar, Biological activity of select plant and indigenous extracts against diamondback moth, Plutella xyllostella (L.) (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae) and cowpea aphid, Aphis craccivora Koch (Hemiptera: Aphididae), 2013, Department of Entomology, University of Agricultural Sciences, GKVK, Bangalore, Karnataka, 560 065.

M. Karthikeyan and Anilkumar S N

Karthikeyan M CEO,

E-mail :

 Anilkumar S.N

Program Lead: Sustainable Agriculture


Nature Positive Farming & Wholesome Foods Foundation, No.518, Thirumala madhavi, 5th cross, Vijaya bank layout Bilekhalli, Bangalore-76

Recently Published Articles

Women-led farm initiatives

Women-led farm initiatives

By using organic farming methods, developing connections with markets, generating income, and enhancing their own...


Call for articles

Share your valuable experience too

Share This