Carbon copy of futuristic farming

A Chennai-based banker turns entrepreneur to promote organic urban farming for a sustainable future
Sunish P Surendran
Sunish P Surendran

Kern Agrawal was just 20 when he was introduced to the bliss and sanity of organic gardening and urban farming by his long-time girlfriend and now wife, Ranjani, over a decade ago. Ranjani’s family owned one such farm.

Kern was ushered into the art and science of agriculture in his final year of MBA at the Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA) in Chennai. He was trying to identify a viable topic for his practical project. After considering and discarding various options, he chanced upon the idea to convert urban farming or gardening into a viable business model. He discussed the idea with his classmates. Thrilled at its uniqueness, four of them joined him, and stuck together.

Once completed, their project attracted much attention not only at the institute but in the city also. The group did real-life demonstration of their business model at LIBA. Till date, a large portion of the organic vegetables used to prepare food in the canteen is being sourced from its own gardens. “The exercise inspired us so much that it remained with us even after the course got over. Despite our full-time jobs, we kept researching on the idea,” says the 30-year-old.

Finally, in 2014, with five years of experience in the banking sector, Kern quit his job and nosedived into a full-time urban farming initiative, The Urban Farmers (TUF), to help city vegetable growers in monetising their efforts.

TUF helped Chennai’s organic gardeners, both households and corporate, with tools and knowledge, and consultation. Mingling at such micro levels introduced them to the challenges of organic agriculture—composting, seed, and microgreen supplies.“Another challenge was maintaining fertility of the soil,” Kern says. To keep growing organic food and to obtain maximum output, organic manure was a mandatory requirement. This realisation led to the birth of Carbon Loops in March 2017.

This is Kern’s newest venture that he floated with his wife Ranjani to close the circle of organic farming, natural composting, minimising waste and carbon footprints. “What happens is—rural India grows food that travels to urban India, where it is consumed and the waste is dumped at the landfills leading to pollution. We collect the biodegradable food waste from large canteens, and scientifically decompose it. This gives us two products—the biogas that is used as fuel, and the organic manure that is given to farmers,” he says.

LIBA became their first client, with two-tonne biodegradable waste being collected from the institute’s kitchen on a daily-basis. Kern and Ranjani would soon be recruiting more hands to help with the expansion.

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The New Indian Express