Vacation homes, holiday rentals and weekend getaways are usually what most city folks opt for to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, but how many have actually thought about spending some quality time far way from urban centres, living in a farm in a forest, where those more accustomed to street-corner supermarkets can actually grow their own food?
Sunith Reddy, Sameer Shisodia and Shaurya Chander, all former engineers, are offering exactly that through BeForest and its farming collectives. Founded in 2018, BeForest is a start-up that aims to create ecologically and economically sustainable communities in areas far away from congested and steadily more polluted cities. These collectives and the living units in them will double up as farm houses or a “food forest’ for their clients.
“The idea came out of the personal experience of having lived years together in big cities which are increasingly posing serious health and other challenges to residents. Whether you are a professional or a businessman who spends countless hours before big screens in closed spaces, you would always want to get back to the roots, once in a while,’’ observed Shisodia, co-founder and Chief Farming Officer at BeForest.
Shisodia, along with Reddy and Chander, have a vision of creating around 10,000 acres of ‘food forests’ which could be self-sufficient in terms of water, food and energy in the outskirts of cities such as Bengaluru and Hyderabad. According to the founders, the idea is to first buy suitable land from the owners and slowly convert these plots into properties that can produce food. This would mean that they would be able to support natural spontaneous growth without the support of manure, pest control or, at maturity, even water.
The initiative as such may be long drawn and estimates suggest that it would take a land plot at least 4-5 years to be able to sustain a community. BeForest currently owns nearly 700-1,000 acres of such land in the outskirts of Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai where it has engaged 100 people working on turning the land into the food forest. These collectives are then offered to customers.
The thought of owning a farmhouse in city outskirts may sound luxurious, but the affordable luxury housing market in India is slowly gaining ground especially in the rental vacation segment. According to global market research firm Statista, this market was worth $262 million in 2019 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.4 per cent to $362m by 2023.
Sameer pointed out that affordability has been a concern, which is why their prices are not too high.
“The pricing model depends on the place where the land is... But, on average, it may be Rs 40 lakh for an acre or an acre and a half, which is equivalent to what an apartment in a city may cost,” he said.
BeForest has already managed to settle some communities with around 10-15 members in areas around Bengaluru and Hyderabad. “We are in talks with 400-odd people over the idea of settling in these food forests and their interest level is great,” Sameer said.