A few months after completing his BTech degree, Lucknow-native Saurabh Tripathi realised that he was not satisfied with his job. Additionally, the 2008 recession led to a significant downfall in his salary which pushed him to quit working as an engineer and start something afresh.
With the limited funds he had, Saurabh started a garden nursery in his hometown.
“The nursery was the only idea I could come up with on a tight budget,” says the 36-year-old. “Gardening was my hobby. We always had a small garden where little flowers and other outdoor plants were grown. So, I thought why not start a nursery as a hobby.”
From a simple garden nursery, he expanded to horticulture and floriculture. “I started by selling plants and seeds of vegetables, fruits, flowers and other crops. Large terrace farm owners and gardeners visited my nursery to procure these. It is from conversations with them that I understood this is a vast field and my interest grew substantially. So, I studied from them and researched in developing home gardens and lawns in commercial spaces, too,” he says.
Speaking to his customers who are experienced gardeners, he started micro-farming in one corner of his nursery. Later, experimenting with methods from fellow farmers and YouTube channels, he put together a terrace garden in 2012.
Today, in his 500 square feet terrace garden, Saurabh grows almost all seasonal vegetables like tomatoes, chillies, brinjal, okra and exotic ones like celery, cauliflower and broccoli. He either sells this produce or uses it in his kitchen.
After putting together the nursery Saurabh realised the vegetables and fruits organically grown at his place taste better than store-bought ones. “Once you start eating these, there is no going back,” he asserts.
Other than owning a nursery, Saurabh went on to learn more about setting up gardens in commercial spaces. With the support of his gardening friends, he learned more about vertical gardening, lawn management, customised gardens and more. Today, he designs gardens and lawns for business spaces including 5-star hotels. “The trick is to experiment on a small scale at your own place before going big,” he shares.
The gardeners’ teacher
“I have travelled to almost half of the states in India to collect regional varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers,” says Saurabh. He collected cacti saplings from Rajasthan, vegetable varieties from Haryana and Punjab, and apples from Himachal Pradesh.
“I also gathered seasonal vegetables from Bihar, Maharashtra and West Bengal,” he says, adding it took almost a year to source these seedlings, saplings and plats for his nursery.
“This journey has taught me a lot about farming, its set up and more. I felt a desire to share this with many people. Even though I did this with some of my customers in the nursery, it was after entering the online space five years ago that the number increased,” gushes Saurabh, who is now a mentor on ffreedom app. The app provides courses on farming, small business and personal finance.
Through the platform and otherwise, Saurabh is now promoting farming and spreading awareness about the benefits of eating farm-fresh produce. “It not only provides you good health but also gives a steady income. If an investment of Rs 10,000-20,000 is made on a terrace to set up a farm, at least Rs. 50,000 can be earned as profit. This requires planning, time and effort. The skill can be easily achieved just by watching a few YouTube videos or taking expert advice from successful gardeners,” he says. “My only advice is to stick to organic farming. If that’s not possible, please don’t do it.”
Saurabh has more than 300 subscribers for his course on the app and has already taught above 100 people. His nursery welcomes 100-200 customers every day and has almost all varieties of flowers, vegetables, fruits, tree saplings, and indoor and outdoor plants. The nursery has 50 permanent staff and several contract-based workers.
His mission is to get to more people and to take up big projects on lawn development, terrace farming and vertical gardening. “Nothing can match the mental relaxation that gardening can provide,” he says.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
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