What are the major challenges for the farmers in our country today?
- The fluctuating temperature
- Unavailability of cultivable land
- And soil infertility, due to heavy usage of chemicals over the years.
What if we used technology to fight through this? What if temperature control was in the farmers’ hands? What if no land was required to cultivate? And what if …forget about fertility but no soil was required to grow?
Yes, all this is possible through hydroponics, that is soil-less farming in a polyhouse!
Today we are going to talk about a 20-year-old farmer who has applied this technique to grow his produce and is reaping more profits through this than he did as a programmer.
Born in a farmer’s family in Saidpur village of Haryana, Vipin Rao Yadav never thought of becoming a farmer. His father was a traditional farmer who knew the pros and cons of it well and hence Vipin was sent to Gurgaon to pursue his studies.
“My father always wanted us to do white collar jobs. So my elder brother completed B.Tech, and I was also asked to pursue computer science,” says Vipin.
After getting a degree in B.Sc Computers in 2015, Vipin was placed in a company where he was not earning enough to live comfortably in an expensive city like Gurgaon. So he started looking for other options. Meanwhile, a friend suggested that Vipin visit the nearby Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), where interviews were in progress for training in protective cultivation in floriculture.
This turned out to be the turning point in his life.
“The Agriculture Skill Council of India was taking these interviews. As I would help my father in farm work as a child, I could answer most of their questions to be selected,” informs Vipin.
Training for 200 hours a month was an eye-opener for Vipin. The trainees were taken to ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) and other agricultural research centers. They also met with some of the most successful farmers across the country.
Vipin learned about hydroponics and other newer technologies that could do wonders in the farming sector. During the training, he decided that he would ensure farmers in his village had access and understanding of this technology.
In March 2016, Vipin completed his training to become a full-time farmer. He had quit his job as a programmer.
His next step was to build a polyhouse in a 100 sqft area in his father’s 8-acre farm at Saidpur. He then bought 50 grow trays (used for hydroponic cultivation) and flower seeds.
“I invested around 1.5-2 lakhs initially, which was all the savings I had from my job. People made fun of me for doing this. None of them had heard about soil-less farming, not even my father, and so it was a foolish decision according to them. My father was sure that someone had fooled me,” he laughs.
However, within a month, Vipin surprised everyone by cultivating around 102 flowers per grow tray. According to Vipin, hydroponics is the most hygienic way to grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
He lists his reasons–
- Only coco-pit, vermiculite, and perlite are used in the grow tray. Seeds are sown in the given holes and then watered until germination starts. This means that pests that are common to the soil, are absent here.
- As the temperature is maintained according to the needs of the particular flower, fruit or vegetable, pest attack due to temperature fluctuations is avoided.
- The ratio of the mixture in the grow tray can always be changed according to the nutrients required.
Vipin claims that these fruits and vegetables are more nutritious, as all 17 nutrients including the recently discovered cobalt required for plant growth, are present in the mixture used to grow them. Also, one can control the temperature in the polyhouse and grow unseasonal produce too.
Though Vipin faced initial troubles to get his first produce and did not earn much profit, he is thankful to the scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra who visited his farm and guided him for his next harvest.
“It was quite some time that I had farmed. It was all programming in my mind,” he laughs.
“I made many mistakes initially, but then proper guidance and self-study through the internet helped me succeed. I would recommend all farmers to visit their nearby KVKs at least once and learn about new technologies used in farming. I have only one message for the youth from farming families who are running behind jobs that think out of the box. Farming is not just an occupation, but it can be a profitable business if you do it smartly,” says this 20-year-old farming entrepreneur (as he calls himself).
Within a year, Vipin has rented another 1800 sqft in Gurgaon and built another polyhouse. He now owns 2500 grow trays and grows almost 2.5 lakh flowers every month.
The flowers are sold along with 6-inch pots in the nearby nursery and the flower shops at Gurgaon’s DLF Phase 1 and Phase 4 markets. He also has an arrangement with shops at the Cyber park.
“I am easily earning Rs 40,000-50,000 per month now. People and news channels visit my farm to know more about it. I am glad that the youth in my village now look up to me and contact me to learn about this technique. And whenever someone covers my story, my father proudly says, ‘That’s my son, and he is a farmer’”, concludes Vipin.
Vipin also conducts training programme for those interested. You can contact him on 9991706588
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)