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“Dheet hai yeh, manenge nahin (they’re stubborn, they won’t go away),” said the farmer. He was referring to a bunch of engineering grads trying to persuade farmers to switch to rajma (red kidney beans) from wheat. This was in 2011 near Vaishali in Bihar, recalls Shashank Kumar, who was part of a foundation started by alumni of IIT Delhi and Kharagpur to help farmers.

He and a few others were studying farms around Vaishali and realized that the unit economics of growing wheat in that region made it unprofitable. The irrigation and labour costs for rajma would be lower, and the crop cycle shorter, enabling farmers to grow three crops a year instead of two. But it was hard to convince farmers who had been growing wheat for decades.

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