Spreading innovation

Joseph Lobo, a 44-yr-old farmer,  is popularising the hydroponic method of cultivation and is growing the famous Shankarapura jasmine

Published: 26th December 2021 06:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th December 2021 06:06 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

UDUPI: They say a farmer is a magician who makes his living from the mud. But that is not true in the case of Joseph Lobo, a 44-year-old farmer from the coastal district of Udupi.Lobo hails from Shankarapura, a tiny nondescript village sandwiched between the mighty Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. Shankarapura is called the jasmine capital of the Karnataka coastline and is famous for its Shankarapura mallige (mallige in Kannada means jasmine flowers). And like the majority of the residents of the village, Lobo too cultivates Shankarapura mallige. A passionate farmer, Lobo has been growing the Shankarapura mallige — which was accorded GI tag in 2008 — for the last 15 years. 

But what sets him apart from the rest of the growers is that he has attempted to grow his prized possession without soil! Yes, you read it right. Lobo became the first grower in the region to adopt the novel hydroponic method of cultivation, which in layman’s language is soil-less cultivation.Lobo says he was inspired after attending a workshop at University of Agricultural Sciences, GKVK, Bengaluru, and started experimenting on the new method of cultivation. Lobo has 32 jasmine plants already, including the three grown using the hydroponic technique.

“I like to call myself an agropreneur… because invention adds value to the work we do. I could have grown jasmine like others. But I thought why be content with what I am doing already… I wanted to be different. The method is simple. I take a netted-basket and fill it with coco peat (a multipurpose growing medium made of coconut husks). I then take a bucket filled with organic liquid manure. Then I extract the jasmine sapling carefully without damaging its roots and plant it in the basket. Then I place the basket over the bucket. The roots below grow and absorb the required amount of nutrition from the liquid manure filled in the bucket,” he elaborates.

When asked about the advantage of growing jasmine without soil, he says, “There is no risk of the plant getting infected with any disease. Most of the diseases that plants usually get are through soil. The three jasmine plants I am growing in the hydroponic method started flowering in just two-and-a-half months. In the traditional method, it flowers only after about 4 to 5 months.”

Apart from jasmine, Lobo has also experimented growing chikoo, mulberry and all-season mango using the hydroponic method. He says selecting the right species of plant is vital to taste success. “Those species which grow on to become a tree cannot be confined in the hydroponic method. Plants that grow like bushes are ideal,” he says confidently. His wife, Neema Lobo and daughter Janisha Lobo, a PU student, are equally enthusiastic about soil-less cultivation as it helps them in shifting the plants from one place to another easily.

Lobo says several farmers from his village have approached him to learn about hydroponic cultivation.  ‘‘I have orders now to transform 25 acres of land in Shirva into a jasmine field. Youth are reaching out to me before starting their jasmine cultivation venture,’’ he adds. Lobo also has plans to expand his area of jasmine cultivation. “I will plant more jasmine saplings in my 400-sqft terrace,” he says.

Apart from the basic idea he got from the workshop at GKVK in Bengaluru, he polished his skills by watching videos on YouTube. His relative – Jason - who works in Israel - also motivated Lobo to take up this method of cultivation as it is widely practiced there. A patroniser of comprehensive method of farming, Lobo also grows 11 varieties of guava and other fruit-bearing plants. He also has 35 beehive boxes and a milch cow.When asked if he has availed subsidy from the government, Lobo replies in negative and says, “I feel it is a more cumbersome task to do than cultivating jasmine!”


Shankarapura jasmine was accorded GI tag in 2008 
The flower is known for its unparalleled fragrance, and is very much in demand in Mumbai and abroad apart from local markets  
Apart from jasmine, Joseph Lobo has also experimented growing sapota, mulberry and all- season mango using hydroponic method  
His relative Jason, who works in Israel, also motivated Lobo to take up hydroponic method of cultivation as it is widely followed in Israel

India Matters


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