“The yield is almost 3 to 5 times more than what is grown in soil in the same area. So one can do wonders in small areas too."
After working close to two decades in the IT industry in both India and the US, Guruprasad Kurtkoti realised that he didn’t truly love what he was doing.
Wanting to pursue something that his heart rejoiced in, the 45-year-old quit his high-paying IT job in the US, packed his bags and came back to India to pursue his dream of farming.
Want to learn all about soilless farming in just 6 hours? Want to grow poison-free, nutritious veggies on your rooftop or balcony space? Book your slot at this awesome workshop here.
“The pressure of not being content with what I was doing, constantly kept adding up to my frustration. That is when I decided to quit my job and focus on farming,” he says.
And Guru, as his friends call him fondly, has been doing precisely that for the past two years. Using Hydroponics, he has been growing all the vegetables that his family consumes—tomatoes, carrots, spinach, beans, baby corn, cabbage—right in his backyard. And, now he wants to share this knowledge!
Born in the small town of Lakshmeshwara in the Gadag district, Karnataka, Guru grew up surrounded by green farmlands. “I always wanted to be with nature and do farming, which could be because of my roots. Many of my friends were from a farming family,” said Guru.
However, things did not come easy to him. Guru explained that since he wasn’t experienced in farming, he had to start everything from scratch. While he was trying to figure things out, he was forwarded a video by one of his friends about Hydroponics. “This was the turning point of my life!” exclaims Guru.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a technique of growing plants without soil. What plants need to grow is water and nutrients. Guru believes that Hydroponics is especially useful in urban areas where space is a major issue.
“The yield is almost three to five times more than what is grown in soil in the same area. One can do wonders in small areas too,” he says. The produce is also much more in a shorter duration if the nutrients are available at the right time and in the correct proportions, says Guru.
Plants also remain healthier when growing in water as compared to the soil as the latter can easily get contaminated because for pollutants like fertilisers and pesticides. “Since this is soil-less, lots of soil-borne diseases are avoided. This, in turn, avoids polluting soil because of spraying harmful pesticides and poisons,” explains Guru.
In addition to water, nutrient rich matter like coco peat and pebbles are used as a medium to hold the plants in place.
Guru takes time also to highlight the sustainable aspect of this technique.
“Compared to traditional farming, the water is re-circulated in hydroponics, and thus you end up saving almost 90 per cent of water usage,” he informs.
What to expect in the workshop
Guru says that he faced a lot of difficulty in finding someone who could teach him the technicalities of Hydroponics. Travelling to Dharwad, he finally learnt the technique from Retd. Lt. Cdr. C.V. Prakash, the man whom he considers as his inspiration.
Prakash started the Pet Bharo Project in an attempt to popularise hydroponic cultivation.
After learning and practising Hydroponics for over a year or so, Guru realised that there are not many people who are into informing and educating others about this technique. He also found that a lot of urban farmers, just like farmers in rural areas, are misinformed and misled about different farming practices. That’s when he decided to offer training to people in this scientific farming technique under Belesiri, the company he founded in April, 2018.
A session in a day lasts up to six and a half hours. Here, one is taught how to grow different plants and the nutrient specifications for each. This is also highlighted in a chart provided to the participants in the workshop itself as a takeaway.
Guru has now trained over 300 students in the past 18 months in his modest farm situated in Ganesh Nagar in Kodigehalli. Kotra Gouda, 38, is one of his students who learnt this technique about six months ago. “Learning this technique not only helped me in growing my food but also become an entrepreneur,” says the farmer from Haveri.
Gouda is now preparing hydroponic kits which are priced at Rs. 10,000 to 15,000 for 50 planters.
Guru feels happy to have created such an impact. “We have plans to take this technique to villages as a scalable model that can help farmers earn good profits,” he says signing off.
Guru had to face backlash when he decided to switch careers. “My wife and I knew that this was a very calculated risk we were taking. We knew we might face criticism in the beginning as well, and some people were ready to laugh at our failures. However, I was determined to do what I love and not want to go back to corporate life at any cost. It was a do or die situation!” smiles Guru.
It seems the gamble has paid off!
Want to learn all about soilless farming in just 6 hours? Want to grow poison-free, nutritious veggies on your rooftop or balcony space? Book your slot at this awesome workshop organised by Guruprasad Kurtkoti here.
Pictures Courtesy: Guruprasad Kurtkoti
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)