After a string of failures with his startup ideas, William Mathews, an MCA graduate from Kappatumala, a village in Kozhikode, decided to move to the UAE.
But in 2010, William left his job there, returned to Kerala and went on to establish a ‘fruitful career’ (pun intended) there.
In a span of 10 years, this techie has filled 8 acres of his land with 550 varieties of tropical fruits and also diversified into coconut cultivation, pisciculture and apiculture.
Today William’s ‘Infarm’ fruit farm is immensely popular in Kerala and a must-visit place for researchers and agricultural experts from across the country.
“I gave up my job in the UAE because there was absolutely no growth, and returned with the dream of developing a fruit farm. I thought that it would be a hobby but it has become a great business model and generates a lot of money,” explains the 42-year-old.
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William’s orchard is home to over 30 varieties of lemons, 19 varieties of dates, 7 varieties of guava and 8 varieties of passion fruit besides exotic fruits like the American Coconia, the “mickey mouse fruit,” wax apples, the Himalayan mulberry, Rollinia, and the Brazilian jaboticaba, from around the world. There are also hyper-local fruits such as ‘Mooti pazham,’ ‘Njara pazham and ‘Karapazham.’
Williams bought the saplings of these trees which were worth Rs 500 back in 2010. Today their cost ranges from Rs 1000 to 2000.
He also converted family-owned paddy fields into mangosteen orchards which are part of his fruit farm.
“Fruit forests or fruit farms are a very popular concept outside India but have not been experimented on a large scale in the country so far. I feel that it is definitely something that the states in the Western Ghats should try out because the humid climate in these areas is apt for them,” he adds.
Besides the fruits, the farm also has a few medicinal plants like frankincense, camphor and rudraksha.
William has also recently expanded into apiculture and pisciculture. The farm currently has 2 ponds with different varieties of fish and almost 100 boxes of honeybees for cultivation.
“This farm didn’t pop up overnight. I’ve done a lot of research and travelled to several farms across India and abroad to get a better understanding of how it’s done. Most of these saplings cost a fortune and at that time since I was struggling financially, my parents advised me not to invest in farming. But every time I found a tropical fruit that was rare and could be grown in Kerala’s climatic conditions, I would purchase it immediately. Today when I look back, I’m glad I took those decisions because I can finally see my dreams coming true,” explains William.
As mentioned earlier, before the farm, William had experienced a series of failures.
“Right after my graduation in 1996 from Rajagiri, I had a plan for a startup called ‘Status Idea’ which is similar to today’s ‘Facebook.’ The application would allow people to connect with their friends and colleagues in real-time. But my timing was all wrong. India was not familiar with the concept of a startup at the time and I failed miserably,” explains William.
While his focus was on the farm, to ensure that his skills in IT would not go to waste, he started a skilling centre named Mavoor Institution of Computer Technology (MICT) which would teach students the basic concepts of IT, coding and technicalities of operating a computer. Today, with almost 60 students attending the classes, it has also begun to gain momentum.
“My wife Seena is currently heading MICT and my children Joshua and Joel, who study in Classes 8 and 9, respectively, help me out with the work in the farm. Both of them have developed a passion for farming and I’m glad they understood its value at such a young age, says William.
“I believe that every household should plant vegetable and fruit saplings according to the space they have. This will never go into waste and you will soon be able to use the produce from your own backyard,” William concludes.
William is one of the many people who switched careers from the IT world to farming with an aim to create a diverse ‘fruit forest’ and make these tropical fruits accessible to others. At a time when farmers are quitting agriculture, people like William gives us hope for a greener future.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)