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Biz of Healthy Veggies Now Grows on E-market

Groups of tech-savvy farmers are redefining the concept of organic foods which are delivered right at your doorstep

Published: 16th March 2016 05:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th March 2016 05:07 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: Chilli powder-coated idlis made of Kullakar red rice for breakfast or snacking on organic cholam nachos dipped in a specially made tomato dip? Why not, ask new-age organic farmers.

The term ‘organic’ has often been associated with high costs, but not anymore. Groups of tech-savvy farmers have been redefining the concept and can now deliver right to your home. Take Vivek Sundar of Farm Fresh Hand Picked (FFHP), for instance. The IT engineer from a farming family in Cumbum has set up a website, a Facebook page and an app where people can order.

They have 13,000 customers in the State, but don’t have a warehouse — they don’t stock their veggies. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables are hand-picked and delivered to your doorstep the very next day. You even have the option to order through WhatsApp!

On a similar note, city-based Sirisha and Govindraj decided to get into organic farming  and bought a two-acre plot in Sriperumbudur — they engage with the agriculture community and promote sustainable farm practices. They sell their produce through ‘Namma Farm’, an initiative where naturally grown food is made available at your doorstep. In both these cases, there is a tie-up with farmers who grow organic produce. “We bring the freshest produce to your dining table. Farmers also get a better price for their goods because there are no middlemen involved,” says Vivek. Farm Fresh started in 2014 after a year’s ground study.

For Chennai-based Sirisha, the farm visits are  2-3 times a week. “We also attend farmer’s meetings and discuss the best practices. There are certain things that only the old-timers know,” says Sirisha. For instance, jeevamirtham and poochi virati (natural fertiliser and pesticide) can be prepared with things already available on the farm. Namma Farm has created a network of local and small-scale farmers in the city’s suburbs and mapped them too. “Organic is the way to go because it is natural and sustainable,” she adds.

“We do planned agriculture on close to 200 acres. In addition to Theni, we also network with farmers from Madurai and Kodaikanal,” says Vivek. But how did ‘organic’ catch on? “Consumers are now aware of quality and farmers too are slowly converting to organic,” he explains. With the demand rising, Vivek says his aim is to provide affordable organic produce at a low cost. “Our produce is 20-25% lesser than the usual organic produce you would find in retail shops.”

Another organisation working on the online model is Svarnavriksh, which sources its vegetables fresh from Koyambedu market. “Once you order, it’s in your fridge within 24 hours.” The online part, however, is incidental — the veggies are packed by people with mental disabilities like autism.

“It’s e-commerce with a purpose,” says Svarnavriksh’s principal associate Arjun Krishnan. “For these special individuals, handling cash and organising logistics is tough. Online purchases cut out problems like this,” he says. As soon as a sizeable customer base is established, Krishnan plans to tie up directly with farmers and has plans to involve individuals from old age homes and orphanages too. While organic farming is slowly picking up, not many people are aware of how they can be adapted to suit culinary tastes. Kumbu or ragi, for instance, tastes very different from the usual grains.

For this, Namma Farm experiments with fun recipes like batter made of Kullakar red rice and karupu avarai kootu. So if you want your plate to get healthier with not much strain on your pockets, take the online organic route!

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