FarmVille for real

Thinking beyond cliched IT startups and corner cafes, a new generation of youngsters is breaking
conventions and embracing agriculture, vegetable farming  and aquaculture.

Published: 21st October 2016 12:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st October 2016 05:44 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

In THE blockbuster movie, Nadodikkattu, there’s a popular scene that perfectly illustrates the state of mind of the young urban, educated Malayali in the late 80s. When it’s suggested to the overtly proud unemployed commerce graduate, Dasan (Mohanlal), that he could rear cows and become a successful dairy farmer, he exclaims, “Me? A first class B Com graduate, become a dairy farmer? I don’t think so.”

Three decades on, trends have reversed and there’s no shame in picking up the plough. A growing breed of youngsters—armed with professional degrees and successful enterprises—are proving that their degrees are assets out in the field. From using lessons in mechanical engineering to mechanise farms and creating e-commerce websites to sell organic farm produce, these youngsters are proving that careers can be created away from the confines of a cubicle.

“Your creations on the computer are intangible. When it comes to agriculture, you can touch, feel, smell and taste your creations, and even share your outputs with your loved ones. I believe this school of thought is urging youngsters to take up farming,” says Mathew Sebastian, a veteran agriculturist and co-founder of the farm-certifying agency, INDOCERT, elaborating,

“Currently, the biggest hurdles to agriculture are lack of access to markets, real-time information, and middlemen who rig markets to their convenience. Now young agriculturists have opened online market places (think Farming Colors, Farmers FZ and Ente Krishi), which are supplying farm produce directly to households and cutting out middle men. Queries on agricultural practices, too, are easily clarified on Whatsapp groups like Kaarshiga Rengam (details: 9447001122). These individuals are poised to change the face of agricultural commerce in the coming years.”

Pradeep P S
Chief profession: PHP developer
Agricultural land hold: Six acres
Produces: Tapioca, ladies finger,
red banana, bitter gourd
The monotony of working full-time as a web developer and the thirst to find a larger market for the agricultural produce from his household in Mala, Thrissur, motivated this 26-year-old to take the shovel. “My father grew vegetables in our backyard. Once, when he tried to sell 200 kg of bottle gourd in the market, he was offered `1 for a kg. This really disturbed me. I vowed to create something that would take our farm produce directly to households, where it would be appreciated. Thus was born the online store and app FarmersFZ last year, which now serves close to 4,000 customers,” says Pradeep, who skips chemical fertilisers and adds cowdung to his crops for its essential micro nutrients. “Apart from attaining self-sufficiency in the future, I want to fuse agriculture and technology, and create AgroIT careers,” adds Pradeep, who engages in the end-to-end process on his farm.Details: farmersfz.com

Ranjith Chitteth
Chief profession: Machinist
Agricultural land hold: 26 acres
Produces: Tomatoes, hybrid red
chillies, brinjals, snake gourd
A precision tool maker by profession, Chitteth’s love for tractors and farming equipment brought him to the farm. Applying his expertise on the field, the 37-year-old developed precision farming methods in his farm at Ashtamichira, Thrissur, by introducing drip irrigation, hybrid seeds and farm mechanisation—all of which greatly reduced water consumption and wastage, and recently earned him an accolade from the Kerala Government: Best Young Farmer. “I used simple plastic sheets for mulching, which increased the moisture content of the soil and water retention. I also skipped the heavily-built high power consuming tractors in the local market and opted for the smaller Japanese Kuboto tractor and customised it with multiple attachments, which could pluck weeds and till the soil,” says Chitteth, who keeps tab of the latest technologies in agriculture on the Haifa Chemicals website (aifa-group.com) and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University’s e-learning portal (tnau.ac.in/eagri). “Only after researching online did I realis our soil was acidic, compared to the alkaline-rich soil in Tamil Nadu, which gives more yields. I am aware about the benefits of going organic, but going completely organic will reduce 70 per cent of my output and the projected market for organic produce is hyped, too, so I will stick with using pesticides responsibly,” adds Chitteth. Details: 9656965888

Vadakkedath brothers
Chief profession: Restaurateurs
Agricultural land hold: Five acres
Produces: Pokkali rice, coconut, prawns

Brothers Vineeth and Vishnu Vadakkedath, both in their mid 20s, have a successfully-running cafe, Nosh Haus, in Aluva. Though their NRI father has invited them to the Gulf, the youngsters chose to remain in their home town, North Paravur, working on their family’s farmland. “We now farm pokkali rice and coconuts (organically). We also farm prawns. From adopting a simple litmus test, learned in school chemistry classes, to test acidity content in the waters, to accessing YouTube farming channels like Ag Proud and emailing agricultural societies around the world, we have an upper hand when it comes to farming practices,” says the elder Vineeth, who entirely mechanised their farming operations, devised a strategy to yield multiple crops post harvest and use something as simple as
peanut fodder for increasing soil nutrients the organic way.
Details: facebook.com/noshhaus

Digol Thomas
Chief profession: Interior designer
Agricultural land hold: 25 cents
Produces: English cucumber, capsicum, musk melon, bitter gourd

When the 2009 recession hit, 37-year-old Digol Thomas realised it would be wise to rely on ones backyard rather than some unforeseen global economic forces. This marked the engineering graduate’s venture into farming at Manathavadi, Wayand. “I started out with bitter gourd, which is relatively easily to cultivate. Initially, a few of my bitter gourds wilted, and every one opined it was a nematode attack (a soil-bourne plant disease). But I posted pictures of the vegetables on Facebook and some farmers hinted it maybe an iron and magnesium deficiency. Digging up the roots confirmed the same and I was able to salvage the situation with basic manure,” says Thomas, who now specialises in identifying plant diseases  under the brand name, Avani.
Details: facebook.com/avaniagrofarm

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