Bio Fertilizer – Consultancy Project Profile


1.1 Sustainable crop production depends much on good soil health. Soil health maintenance warrants optimum combination of organic and inorganic components of the soil. Repeated use of chemical fertilizers destroys soil biota. In nature, there are a number of useful soil micro organisms which can help plants to absorb nutrients. Their utility can be enhanced with human intervention by selecting efficient organisms, culturing them and adding them to soils directly or through seeds. The cultured micro organisms packed in some carrier material for easy application in the field are called bio-fertilisers.

1.2 Bio-fertilisers are living microorganisms of bacterial, fungal and algal origin. Their mode of action differs and can be applied alone or in combination. By systematic research, efficient strains are identified to suit to given soil and climatic conditions. Such strains have to be mass multiplied in laboratory and distributed to farmers. They are packed in carrier materials like peat, lignite powder in such a way that they will have sufficient shelf life. The list of commonly produced bio-fertilizers in our country is given in Annexure1.

2. Major advantages of Biofertilisers

2.1 Biofertilisers enhance the nutrient availability to crop plants (by processes like fixing atmosphere N or dissolving P present in the soil) ; and also impart better health to plants and soil thereby enhancing crop yields in a moderate way. It is a natural method without any problems like salinity and alkalinity, soil erosion etc.. In the vast areas of low input agriculture and oil seeds production, as also in crops like sugarcane, etc, these products will be of much use to give sustainability to production. In view of the priority for the promotion of organic farming and reduction of chemical residues in the environment, special focus has to be given for the production of biofertilisers.

3. Commercial prospects

3.1 The biofertilisers are mainly purchased by State Agriculture Departments and distributed to the farmers at concessional rates. About 200 to 500 grams of carrier material is only needed per acre, costing about Rs.10/- to 25/-. In view of the above, if the units are selected carefully, there can be assured business. The benefits usually obtained by the use of biofertilizers will not be as visible as that of chemical fertilizers. As the results are not dramatic, many farmers are not aware of the significance, excepting in States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, these are more commonly used with Government’s support. In the context of increasing awareness about the use of natural products and organic agriculture, these products will have good scope. Further, the organically grown produces fetch higher prices both in domestic and export markets.

3.2 It is estimated that the production of biofertilisers in the country by the existing units is about 7500 to 9000 TPA. This is far below the potential requirement of 7.6 lakh TPA by the year 2000-2001 as estimated by the National Biofertiliser Development Centre (NBDC) Ghaziabad. So far, the Ministry of Agriculture has supported establishment of 67 biofertiliser units in different parts of the country.

Estimated potential Demand for Biofertilisers by 2000-2001
Type of Biofertiliser Demand (Tonnes)



Blue green Algae

Phosphate solublising microorgaanism






Total 762,372
3.3 This estimated demand of NBDC is based on the cultivated area of the country and treatment of the total seed sown at the rate of 200g biofertiliser per 10 kg of seed. Although this assumption reflects only the macro level requirement, even if 50% of the cultivated area is to be brought under biofertiliser application, there will be a wide gap between the actual production and the requirements. The current trends indicate that there is a steady increase in the demand in the Southern states except Andhra Pradesh, Western States and Madya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

 4. Biofertilser Technology

 The technology used were indigenous and the scientific aspects of production are standardised by Agricultural Universities and Research Laboratories of GOI.. Machinaries and laboratory equipments are available from various manufacturers and are of BIS standards. The details of technology are given in the Annexure 2.

5. Objective of Biofertilser Project

 The primary objective of biofertiliser projects could be production of various strains of good quality biofertilisers using most modern technology. The infrastructure and laboratory facilities created, however, can be utilised for the production of bio – pesticides and bio control agents. Multi product range will increase the viability.

6. Requirements of Biofertilser Projects

 In line with the technology and objective of biofertiliser production, various facilities are required for the successful implementation of such projects which are indicated below:

6.1 Land

It is required to set up laboratory and other facilities and office. Space may also be required for installing tube well / dug well and parking of vehicles. A minimum of ½ acre of land is required for setting up a 150 TPA unit. Preferably, the entire site should be fenced with barbed wire or compound wall with gates at suitable places. The boundary may be planted with thick and tall growing species like Asoka, to filter air and reduce dust.

6.2 Layout and buildings

 The civil works comprises of factory building for laboratory, Carrier preparation and enrichment, sterilisation, Inoculation and quality control, Maturation of culture, Mixing and packing, storage/ staff etc,. The total covered area of about 3000 sq ft is required for the product manufacturing and other utilities.

6.3 Plant and Machinery

 Manufacture of biofertilisers needs a good number of laboratory equipments as well as other production facilities such as fermentors, culture medium tank, fermentor assembly, autoclaves, boiler, broth dispensers for sterlisation, deminralising plant, air compressor etc,. The section wise equipment required, their specifications, quantity required and average cost are indicated in Annexure 4. All the machinery are manufactured in the country. Some of the suppliers undertake the installing the units on a turn key basis.

6.4 Manufacturing process and Source of technology

 The mother culture of various strains of biofertiliser are supplied from Agricultural Universities and Regional Biofertiliser Development centres (MOA). The operations involved in the manufacturing process are given in the form of a flow diagram (Exhibit 1). The unit generally comprises of media preparation room, media store room, inoculation room, growth room, culture transfer room, sterilization ,Mixing and packing, etc. The floor plan should be designed to promote maximum efficiency and minimum contamination. The design should facilitate maintenance of optimum temperature, humidity and ventilation. Inside air of the unit should be free from dust particles.

6.5 Infrastructural Facilities for raw material, carrier material and utilities

The raw material required for biofertilser production include ingredients for growth medium for the production of broth, carrier, packing materials like polythene packets. corrugated boxes, etc,.

6.5 Utilities

 I) Power

Normally a three phase electric supply is required for these plants. The normal requirements of a 150 TPA unit is about 70 hp. Depending upon the position of power supply, stand by generator may be needed.

Ii) Water

A Biofertiliser production unit requires water mainly for steam generation for sterlisation of carrier, broth preparation and cleaning of equipments. Accordingly well/ bore well of designed size and according to the quality of water demineralisation equipments are to be installed. The average per day requirement of water for 150 TPA capacity will be about 2500 to 3000 liters

Iii) Compressed air

It will be required for various pneumatic operations as well as for controlled air supply to fermenters, sterlisation / cleaning operations etc,.

Iv) Vehicles

The vehicles are required for procurement of carrier material and distribution of biofertilisers as well as for office use . Accordingly one LCV and a jeep have been included in the project.

6.6 Manpower

 For a unit manufacturing of biofertilisers the requirements of manpower is as :

Sr. No Position Number
1 Chief Executive Officer 1
2 Chief Biologist / Micro Biologist 1
3 Accountant and clerical Assistant 1
4 Floor Supervisor/ Factory Manager 1
5 Technical Staff ( boiler operation, mechanical maintenance, packing machine

operations, electrical maintenance)

6 Drivers 1
7 Skilled labourers 2
8 Sales Officer 2
7. Unit Size

The size of a biofertiliser unit could be expressed in terms of the capacity of production of various types/ strains of biofertilisers per annum. The projects so far set up in our county vary from 75 TPA to 300 TPA. The capacity can be easily expanded by adding a few additional equipment like a fermenter and/ or adding another shift.

8. Environmental Aspects and Pollution Control

 No hazardous effluents are generated from a biofertiliser unit.

9. Business Prospects And Marketing and Selling Arrangements

 9.1 Considering the importance for organic farming and promotion of sustainable farming practices it is estimated that there will be further scope for adding new units, particularly in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. The biofertiliser products are picking up mainly in cultivation of sugarcane, pulses, cereals and plantation crops. Since these crops are grown in vast areas, no problem in marketing is foreseen. The units should establish market channels with such niche sectors.

9.2 When a new entrepreneur intends to setup a project, a detailed market survey report is to be prepared. The report may be prepared keeping in view the following aspects. may have to be kept in view:- the present and future demand – Cropping pattern in the supply for various products, gap in supply and expected demand for various products.

The major competitors and their present share.

The projections of the unit for the next 3-5 years and the basis for projection.

The product wise quantities and places where it is to be marketed.

The market for the product and type of arrangements for distribution and sales, commission and additional incentive to be given, the proposed net work and the advertisement plans.

10. Capital cost of the project

 10.1 Broadly, the capital cost includes the cost of land , development of land , fencing, civil works (plant building, office, godown etc,.) Plant and machinery, preliminary and preoperative expenses etc,. Capital cost of a model biofertiliser unit with a capacity of 150 TPA will be Rs. 73.473 lakhs. The project cost comprises of Rs 2.450 lakhs on land and land development , Rs. 13.500 lakhs on civil structures, Rs. 22.100 lakhs on plant and machinery , Rs. 21.850 lakhs on account of misc. fixed assets, Rs. 3.000 lakhs on preliminary and preoperative expenses, Rs. 7.000 on vehicles, Rs.2.000 lakhs of contingency and Rs 1.573 lakhs of margin money for working capital. The details of project cost are furnished in Annexure 4.

10.2 Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India is implementing a central sector scheme viz., “National Project on Development and use of Biofertilisers”.

11. Economics of the project

 Based on the various techno-economic parameters, the economics of the project have been worked out for the project period or till the repayment of bank loan. The items of income includes sale of biofertilisers. While the expenditure includes the cost of raw material, transportation and commission, power, fuel packing distribution, wages and salary, repairs and maintenance, insurance, advertisement and other overheads. The income as well as expenditure for each year are worked out and subjected to cash flow analysis.

12. Financial analysis

 The cash flow statement covering the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR), Net Present Worth (NPW) and Internal/financial rate of return (IRR/FRR) have been worked out for the project. Normally the BCR should be greater than 1, NPW should be positive and IRR/FRR should be greater than 15%.

13. Financial assistance

 The projects on manufacturing biofertiliser products would be considered for refinance support by National Bank. Therefore, all participating banks may consider financing this activity subject to their technical feasibility, financial viability and bankability.


 List of commonly produced bio-fertilizers in India

Rhyzobium strains Legumes like pulses, groundnut, soybean 10-35% yield increase, 50-200 kg N/ha. Fodders give better results. Leaves residual N in

the soil.

Azotobacter Soil treatment for non- legume crops including dry land crops 10-15% yield increase- adds 20-25 kg N/ha Also controls

certain diseases.

Azospirillum Non-legumes like maize, barley, oats, sorghum, millet, Sugarcane, rice etc. 10-20% yield increase Fodders

give higher/enriches fodder response.

Produces growth promoting substances. It can be applied to

legumes as co-inoculant

Phosphate Solubilizers*

(*there are 2 bacterial and 2 fungal species in this group)

Soil application for all crops 5-30% yield increase Can be mixed with

rock phosphate.

Blue-green algae and Azolla Rice/wet lands 20 -30 kg N/ha, Azolla can give biomass up to 40-50 tonnes and fix 30-100 kg N/ha Reduces soil alkalinity,

can be used for fishes

as feed. They have

growth promoting hormonal effects.

TNAU has developed

high yielding

Azolla hybrids.

Microhizae (VAM) Many trees, some crops, and some ornamental plants 30-50% yield increase , enhances uptake of P. Zn, S and Water. Usually inoculated

to seedlings.


Technical aspects of bio-fertilisers

What are Bio-fertilizers

1. Bio-fertilizers, in strict sense, are not fertilizers which directly give nutrition to crop plants. These are cultures of micro organisms like bacteria, fungi, packed in a carrier material. Thus, the critical input in Biofertilisers is the micro organisms. They help the plants indirectly through better Nitrogen (N) fixation or improving the nutrient availability in the soil.

Mode of Action

2. The mode of action depends on the species of the organism. Some agents like Rhizobium cultures enhance N fixation in legumes by imparting effective modulation as they are symbiotic bacteria living in association with leguminous plants.

There are free living bacteria like Azotobacter when applied to soil, enhance the N availability. There are certain other organisms which act on the soil minerals and dissolve the native nutrients like P which is otherwise not readily soluble. The most commonly produced and marketed biofertilizers are

Rhizobium – 3 to 4 strains ,Azotobacter ,Azospirillum ,Phosphate Solubulizing Bacteria – 2 species.

Blue Green Algae.

Critical factors responsible for effectiveness

3. The critical factors which are responsible for the effectiveness of a particular bio-fertilizer are as follows :

Suitability of the species to the target crop

Suitability of the strain : There are specific strains of rhyzobium for different leguminous species like Cowpea, Redgram, Soybean, Alfalfa etc. Biofertilizer of specific culture should be used for specific crop.

Identification of strains as suited to the agro-eco system, particularly the soil PH and moisture conditions. Through research, specific strains as suited to a particular soil and environmental conditions are usually identified and pure mother cultures are maintained in research labs for supply to the commercial manufacturers, e.g. germ plasm of Rhizobium cultures is maintained at IARI, New Delhi.

The aseptic conditions of manufacturing, the cell count of living organism present in the carrier material, purity and level of contamination.

The conditions of carrier material in which the culture is packed and the quality of the packing material, which determine the shelf life.

The conditions in which the packed materials are stored, distributed and kept with the farmers before it is applied.

Soil conditions particularly PH, organic matter content and moisture level; and agronomic practices.

Level of Benefits

The benefits usually obtained will not be as visible as that of chemical fertilizers except in some critical conditions. Biofertilisers can add nitrogen from 20 kg/ha to 200 kg/ha depending upon the optimum conditions. Pastures and forages respond more than grain crops. The yield increases usually range around 10-35%. However, in the vast areas of low input agriculture and in the context of imparting sustainability to crop production at reduced chemical pollution, this product will be of much use. Rhizobium culture treatment becomes essential when new types of legumes like Soybeans are introduced in new areas. The range of benefits usually seen for different organisms is also given in Annexure 1.

Steps involved are as follows

Culture selection and maintenance:

The pure mother cultures of various strains are being maintained in Agricultural Universities, IARI, some ICAR institutions, Regional biofertilizer labs of MOA, etc. There are international sources of supply also like NifTAL, IRRI etc. The mother culture in test tubes of desired strain can be purchased from the identified sources. They have to be further sub-cultured and maintained purely for mass production by adopting standard techniques under the supervision of trained microbiologist.

Culture augmentation:

In the next stage the culture has to be mass multiplied in two levels namely (i) at primary level using shakers in flasks and (ii) Secondary stage multiplication in fermenters. The important factor in this is the preparation of growing medium in which the culture is mass multiplied. There are standard media on which information is available from published sources like Norris & date, Fred et al, ISI approved etc. in case of Rhizobium. Similarly composition for growth media are available for other cultures. After the media is formulated and sterilized in fermenter, it is inoculated using the shorter cultures multiplied in the flasks at definite ratios usually 5%. The bacteria growing medium is called broth and it is continuously aerated by passing sterile air from compressors. After about 3-4 days fermentation period, the broth will be ready for packing in a carrier material. At various stages the quality is tested by drawing samples.

Carrier sterilization:

While the broth is getting ready in the fermenter the carrier material, which is usually the carbon source for the cultures to survive, is sterilized in autoclaves and kept ready for mixing the broth. Peat imported from countries like U.S., Australia is reported to be the best source of carrier material. However, as it is costly lignite is used extensively in India. The carrier is either sterilized in bulk or it is packed and then the packets are sterilized.

Mixing and packing:

There are 2-3 alternatives depends upon the sophistication and automation of the unit.

Under non sterile system, the broth is harvested from the fermenter into sterilized carrier – the mixing is done manually under aseptic condition and packed in polythene bags of desired quantity.

In a slightly upgraded method, the broth and sterilized carrier are mixed mechanically in a blender and the material is packed using semiautomatic packing and sealing machine. In a slightly modified method some units are packing by delivering desired quantities of carrier and broth simultaneously from separate pipe conveyance system in to the polythene bags.

Under a completely sterile system the carrier is taken in autoclavable polypropylene bags and pre sealed – into which the broth from fermenter is directly injected with the help of dispenser. The injection hole is immediately sealed. The packets are kept in incubation room for about a week before transferring to store room.

Sterile system of packing using auto syringe and dispenser is recommended to be the best method and all new units should follow and adopt this system.

Equipment needed

The main equipment needed for manufacture and lab are listed below. They are available through scientific and lab equipment suppliers.


List of equipment

Sr. No Equipments Number
1 Autoclaves 1
2 Rotary shakers 1
3 Fermenters 1
4 Laminar air flow 2
5 BOD incubator 1
6 Hot air oven 1
7 Air conditioner 2
8 Refrigerator 1
9 Microscope 2
10 Balances 2
11 Dispensers or Semi automatic mixing 2
12 pH meter 2
13 Colony counter 1
14 Glassware As needed. Conical flasks are the major requirement  
15 Distiller water unit or Demineralization unit 1
16 Sealing machine 1


Layout of the production unit

The biofertilizer plant should be housed in a suitable building complex. The main production unit should have separate channels for bacteriological work, carrier making and mixing and customer and visitor/marketing way. In addition there should be rooms with separate entrance for utilities like power, steam generator and stores. Appropriate design can be adopted in consultation with scientists/engineers.

Raw material

The chief raw materials needed for the production of biofertilizers are as follows

Mother cultures

Carrier material – lignite or bentonite or peat of desired quality in powder form (70-100 mesh)

Polythene bags, HDPE bags, cardboard cortans

Growth materials – include Manital, sucrose and chemical nutrients.

Quality Control

Though there are BSI standards for two species viz. Rhizobium (IS:8268-1976 and Azotobacter (IS:9138-1979), there is no systematic quality certification system and monitoring mechanism. It is entirely an internal arrangement and voluntary system as of now. As the products being living microorganisms, the quality check up, certification batch-wise even if it is internal is highly essential. Each unit should have lab infrastructure and plans/arrangements for the same.

Each unit, therefore should have the following facilities :

Adequate microbiological lab and qualified microbiologist.

Sampling and testing at various stages of production, including the quality of raw materials.

Specify on the packets all the contents and cell counts. The source of mother culture and the strain name should also be mentioned.

The unit should fix their quality certificate and batch number, pack the products in proper packing material.

Store the products in cooler places till they are sold to farmers.

Ensure to have aseptic conditions, cleanliness and contamination free production lines and housing.

Preferably use automatic and closed systems.

As per BIS specifications, certain tests are required to be conducted, like no of cells, colony character, reaction etc. Cell number at the time of manufacture should not be less than 108 and 107 per gram of carrier material, respectively for Rhizobium and Azotobacter. Similarly, the number of cell count and permissible contamination at expiry dates are also specified.

As certification arrangements are not in place at present, legislation for quality monitoring and accredited labs for testing may be needed in future to ensure proper quality and promote this products.

Limitations and constraints

The major limiting factors include:

Narrow genetic base of mother cultures and lack of efficient and virulent strains suitable to various agro-environments.

Unsatisfactory carrier material with uniform and consistent good quality comparable to imported peat material.

Contamination in broth mixing and packing stages, not using completely closed system of production.

Unsatisfactory packing material which reduces shelf life.

Unsatisfactory storing conditions, particularly during the distribution period. Exposure to high temperatures and sunlight destroy the microbial culture. They should be preferably kept in cold storage conditions.

Not employing properly trained microbiologist.

Lack of quality controls and certification procedures.

At field level: The efficiency when applied to soils is limited by several factors; most important of them being., drought and high summer temperature, water logging, unfavourable soil pH, antagonism from other organisms and nutrient deficiency. There is an acute awareness gap among the farmers on the subject.


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