MBA Grad quits his job to grow residue-free Thai guavas and earns more than Rs 1 Cr

Nainital-born Rajeev Bhaskar never thought that the experience he gained working in a seed company in Raipur would one day help him become a successful farmer and entrepreneur.

As part of the sales and marketing team at VNR Seeds for almost four years, he had the opportunity to interact with several farmers from different parts of the country, he says. Through them, he learned the scope of farming and was motivated to take up farming.

“Although I have a BSc in agriculture, I had no intention of going into agriculture until I started working with VNR Seeds. I had even done my MBA remotely during this But as I got into selling seeds and saplings, I became more interested in farming, eventually wanting to try my hand at it,” he says. The best India.

Along the way, he also learned about the reach of the Thai variety of guava. “I also interacted with farmers who cultivated them and guided them,” he adds.

Furthering his interest, Rajeev quit his job in 2017 to grow Thai guavas on five acres of land he rented in Panchkula, Haryana. It does this via a method known as “no-residue” agriculture.

Today, the 30-year-old agripreneur has expanded to 25 acres of land, on which he grows around 12,000 trees, earning him an average profit of around Rs 6 lakh per acre, he says.

take the leap

Rajeev Bhaskar at his thriving Thai guava farm in Punjab.

Rajeev says that although he had wanted to get into farming for some time, he was unsure about leaving a stable job with the seed company. But in 2017, a Thai guava farmer he had worked with offered him 5 acres of a guava orchard in Panchkula because he was unable to take good care of it.

This turned out to be a turning point in Rajeev’s life – the same year he quit his job and took up the role of a full-time farmer.

“The guava trees on his farm were three years old and bearing fruit. I took the land on lease and started tending the trees,” he says.

As the name suggests, Thai guava varieties originated in Thailand and have high demand all over India. These white fruits are larger than the regular varieties, with an apple-green skin. They are only slightly sweet, with less fragrance.

“The main advantage of the fruit is that it has a long shelf life, up to 12 days, when stored at an ambient temperature of 25 degrees Celsius,” says Rajeev.

Thai guavas
Thai guavas are larger than regular varieties, with apple-green skin and a slightly sweet taste.

He says he adopted a residue-free method because he felt it was viable for large-scale horticulture.

“When I took over the farm, I realized the need for fertilizer as well as good irrigation, which were essential for the growth of these fruit crops. I also wanted to make sure my products were safe and fit for consumption. So I adopted residue-free agriculture,” he explains.

What is residue-free agriculture?

Residue-free farming involves biocides and bio-based biofertilizers to protect crops and help them grow. They sometimes involve the use of chemicals, but in an optimal amount that does not harm human health.

“Organic farming works well when you’re growing in an area or environment where chemical farming isn’t done much. But if the farms around you use chemicals, then it would become difficult to run an organic farm, which would be more prone to pest attacks,” says Rajeev. “Large-scale organic or natural farming is an expensive and labor-intensive business. In addition, the final yield will also be less.

According to a report in The Business Line, residue-free farming is economical and yields higher yields. In addition, it leaves no chemical residue.

Rajeev's Farm
Rajeev practices residue-free agriculture on his 25-acre guava farm

“Each pesticide has a specific pre-harvest interval (PHI), which is the interval between spraying and harvesting, or the minimum time needed for pesticide residues to wear off before the crop can be harvested. I only use green labeled pesticides which are less toxic and have less DAR, of around 3-5 days,” he says, adding that he only harvests his produce after a 15-day interval at from the last application.

To learn more about residue-free farming, we spoke to Dr. Amit Kumar Goswami, a horticultural scientist at the Indian Institute of Agricultural Research in Delhi.

According to him, “there are different types of chemicals that have short-term residues and others that have long-term residues. In residue-free agriculture, a very limited and safe amount of chemicals can be used that will not leave residues on the outcome or product. When using them, it is important to observe the pre-harvest interval (PHI) to ensure that the product is free of any residue before consumption. »

“When it comes to natural farming, the basic components involve animals or livestock. But in their absence, it is difficult to make large-scale agricultural enterprises economically viable. Therefore, some reliance or minimal use of these chemical components becomes necessary at times,” he adds.

Rajeev says he uses water-soluble chemical fertilizers which help boost the yield to a very optimal level.

“We also use the cultivation of microbes in the soil so that it helps in better absorption of nutrients,” he says, adding that he uses drip irrigation for the timely application of soluble fertilizers. in the water as well as to minimize water wastage.

A successful harvest

Another essential farming practice he follows is three-layer bagging.

“When the flowers turn into fruit, we immediately bag them to protect them from injury and pest attacks. The fruit is first covered with a foam net, then with an anti-fog polyethylene bag, and finally with a piece of newspaper. This three-layer packaging ensures even color distribution and safe growth of the fruit until harvest,” he explains.

Bagged guavas at Rajeev's farm
Rajeev also practices three-layer bagging, to protect the fruits from injury and pest attack.

After taking over the farm in 2017, he says the first yield was harvested and sold in October and November. “That year, I earned a gross income of Rs 20 lakh. It gave me the confidence to grow my business. So I took another piece of land (15 acres) near Mohali airport and tried zero-residue vegetable growing. But it didn’t work as I expected because I couldn’t market my products well,” he says.

Faced with vegetable losses, Rajeev decided to stick with Thai guava cultivation, bringing in three other investors this time. So in 2019, they took 55 acres of leased land in Rupnagar, Punjab and planted guava trees.

“We planted guava trees on 25 acres and I continued with the planting of 5 acres in Panchkula until 2021 when the owner decided to sell the land. I also wanted to focus on the 25 acres, so I had to drop the first farm,” says Rajeev.

He says guava trees start fruiting in the second to third year after planting, producing around 10kg per plant. The yield increases over time to an average of 25 kg per plant.

“The average maximum potential of a single guava is 40 kg, which I want to reach in the coming years,” he adds.

Workers harvesting guavas at Rajeev's farm.
Workers harvesting guavas at Rajeev’s farm.

Guava plants are harvested twice a year – once during the rainy season and then during the winter. “But we only harvest during the rainy season to avoid competition from other varieties and vendors. We let the plants rest after that,” he says.

“We sell all our products in the APMC market in Delhi in 10 kg boxes and we are paid within a week. The price per kg varies between Rs 40 and Rs 100, depending on the season and the quality,” he says. “Currently, I have around 14 farm workers and we earn on average Rs 6 lakh per acre.”

According to Rajeev, Thai guava farming is a risky business because profits can fluctuate.

“I may be doing well right now, but it could be different next year. It couldn’t be profitable all the time. But if we manage our farm very well and with a little patience, we could eventually get a decent average profit every year,” he believes.

Edited by Divya Sethu

Source:
Prioritize residue-free farming over organic farming, by Thirukumaran Nagarajan; published by The Business Line on May 15, 2022.

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