As the son of a farmer, Adithya Dahagam’s interest in the agriculture industry began at a young age. His father is one of thousands farmers in the Telangana region of India, where agriculture has been the chief source of income for the state’s economy for centuries.

Now a master’s student at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and Ford School of Public Policy, Adithya is applying his academic training in engineering, natural resources, sustainability, public policy, and economics to solve a problem back home in India. Currently, farmers irrigate their land by accessing ponds built in the region around the 13th century. The ponds store rainwater from the monsoon season but over time, silt has been filling the ponds, reducing their capacity.

Adithya and his teammates John Monnat (Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning) and Leon Espira (School of Public Health), found that by de-silting these ponds, farmers in the region could increase crop yield and reduce the use of fertilizers. They found that silt dug up from ponds during the dry season acts as a fertilizer that increases crop yield by nearly 50 percent and reduces greenhouse emissions from less fertilizer use by 50-to-90 percent. Shortly, after this discovery they formed “Chevuru” which means pond, tank, or lake in the region’s lake Telugu.

Over the next five years, the Cheruvu team is working with the State of Telangana’s “Mission Kakatiya” program to assess the ongoing desilting and restoration of 46,000 ponds, the backbone of region’s historic irrigation infrastructure. Cheruvu is partnering with India’s Telangana government and $1 billion funding from the Green Climate Fund to apply this technology throughout the region.  Though their current effort is focused on the distributed pond network on the Deccan Plateau, Cheruvu hopes to collaboratively work on large and small-scale sustainability problems throughout the world.

Read more about Adithya Dahagama and Chevuru.