Anyone who saw the latest episode of ‘Satyameva Jayate’ would have got a glimpse of the magnitude of problems created by chemical pesticides to human health and environment. While there are widely held views on the profitability of farming without chemical aides, a group of young technocrats from the city, who have relinquished their lucrative careers, have now embarked on a mission to find a good revenue model for organic farming. And given their success to date, it seems they are on the right track.
Inspiration for ‘Nalla Keerai’, an organic farming project now functioning in the outskirts of Chennai near Thirunindravur, started by a group of motivated youngsters came up when one of them, R Jagannatham, who was a business development manager at a private firm, got exposed to the plight of farmers in poverty during one of his travels.
A survey revealed that farmers spent most of their money on inputs, of which pesticides formed a huge chunk of expenditure. Therefore, Jagannathan wondered if cutting down on pesticides would help farmers earn higher profits. He shared his idea with three others - Gautam Balaji, a financial analyst, Thirumalai, an MBA graduate from IIT and S V Ramu, a software developer. They started an organic farm on 25 acres of land and decided not to use chemical pesticides there.
“However, we gave up on the 25 acre project, where the idea was to allocate one acre per family and grow different products, and decided to concentrate on growing greens on a six acre farm,” says Gautam. This time they planted different types of spinach on a leased land.
“We chose spinach because it has a short cultivation cycle and could help the farmer sustain in the initial stages when land is transformed from being nurtured with synthetic fertilisers to only organic manures,” says Jagannathan.
Jagannathan, who is now incharge of the farming activity, says two types of organic inputs are used as nutrients -Panchagavyam and Jeevamritham, both containing a blend of products obtained from cow.
While the yield was on the lower side initially, the group slowly managed to up the productivity and are now aiming at producing a spinach bunch in a square foot of soil, which is better than what most farmers using synthetic inputs achieve. The group had also ensured that the farmer tilling the land gets maximum profit out of the venture by developing a local-production-local-consumption model, where most of the produce is sold within a particular area to avoid middlemen.
“Currently, we are focusing on the Ambattur area where we now have almost 700 customers,” says Jagannathan.
Each bunch of over 20 varieties of spinach are being sold for a price of Rs 15. “If you visit the farm directly, we will give it to you for Rs 10,” says Gautam.
While they have begun to break-even with their investments, Jagannathan says the idea is to expand the project to a 300 acre area and employ at least 3000 farmers. “But the most important motive is to propagate this idea of organic farming with a sustainable revenue model for farmers,” says Gautam.
‘Nalla Keerai’ could be contacted at 9962611767. People can visit their farm located at Sadhana Kudil, Pakkam, Thirunindravur, Chennai – 602 024.