If you live in Bengaluru, and are looking for ways to ‘healthify’ your meals or add more greens to your diet, Earthistic Agro, a city-based startup has just the thing for you — fresh microgreens, delivered to your doorstep, for an affordable price of Rs 150/ box.
Microgreens are the young greens of vegetables and herbs, and a powerhouse of nutrition. According to several studies, they are 40 times more abundant in Vitamins (C, E, and K), tocopherols, beta carotene and lutein than mature, fully grown leaves.
“We offer a wide variety of live microgreens ranging from simple varieties such as coriander and mustard to exotic ones such as red amaranthus, and sunflower microgreens. They are all grown using organic methods. Since the product is delicate and has a shelf-life up to 3 days, they are delivered only in Bengaluru,” says Vikram Udaygiri, a chef and the founder of Earthistic Agro.
For people with green thumbs, the startup offers a Grow-Your-Own microgreens kit at an affordable price. The kit comprises one packet of seeds, potting-mix, a tray for growing the microgreens, a complimentary spray bottle to water the microgreens, and a special recipe by Vikram. All you have to do is follow the instructions, plant the seeds, and grow them.
Lavanya Akarsh, a resident of Bangalore, purchased two kits for her children aged 8 and 4. She wanted to give them an activity through the lockdown, and inculcate healthy eating habits.
“We purchased these kits one month ago, and my children have definitely become more responsible since they started growing plants. Every morning they wake up to water them, and also continuously measure how much it has grown. When it comes to consuming it, they make no fuss because it is a product of their hard work. Instead, they are very excited to try out special recipes that Vikram has included in the kit,” she says.
Vikram wears many hats. He runs this startup, works as a chef, and is also a professional consultant for restaurants and hotels.
“I assist restaurants in various aspects such as scientifically designing the kitchen as per food-service concepts, designing the menus, identifying chefs, training them, and advising them on food pricing,” he mentions.
Apart from that, Vikram also represents the Ministry of External Affairs in promoting Indian cuisine by organising food festivals all over the globe. In fact, it was during one such food festival that he first came across microgreens.
“I have organised food festivals in several countries including South Africa, Israel, and Egypt. During a food festival in Zimbabwe, I came across microgreens being used as a garnish for dishes, in the same way that we use coriander or curry leaves. This left me feeling amazed, because at the time, these tiny leaves were considered an exotic ingredient back home and were also quite expensive. I wondered if I could work towards changing that perception and make them affordable,” recalls Vikram.
Vikram put this thought into action in 2017, by converting his grandparents’ house, which had been empty for many years, into his microgreens farm.
“To learn the process of growing microgreens, I approached some experts at the University of Agriculture Sciences, Bengaluru, for advice, and also hired some horticulturists to help me set up, initially. For seeds, I got in touch with seed farmers in Karnataka, and some in Rajasthan,” he mentions.
In three 10×10 square feet rooms, Vikram installed five-storey stands and created a vertical garden setup to grow the microgreens. “This method was also the best way to utilise the space available,” says Vikram.
Today, he harvests up to 750 boxes of microgreens every week and supplies his products to more than 90 hotels.
Kasi Vishwanathan, the executive chef of Radisson Blu Atria, Bengaluru, says, “Being a chef himself, Vikram can understand the needs of other hotels. For my restaurant, we order microgreens thrice a week from him, and it has always been of exceptional quality. Apart from the regular varieties of microgreens, he grows different ones such as dill microgreens, or chard microgreens, according to our requirements. He also supplies edible flowers which are otherwise hard to source.”
Image courtesy: Vikram Udaygiri