Uttar Pradesh born Mithilesh Kumar Singh has created an urban vertical garden using PVC pipes to save on cost and space, and also runs Veg Roof, a farming startup that shares gardening tips.
Hailing from a village in Ballia of Uttar Pradesh, Mithilesh Kumar Singh spent most of his childhood roaming around the fields and watching his family work there.
Things changed, however, when he moved to Azamgarh for his studies, and later, Delhi for a job. “I completed computer science engineering in 2007 and moved to Delhi like every other youth, with the hope to land a well-paying job. But I couldn’t make it to any company and followed my passion for writing by turning into a content writer,” Mithilesh tells The Better India.
Over the years, he worked for different portals and an international media content company. And while he was satisfied with the job, the atmosphere in the capital city was monotonous and unhealthy, he recalls. “I missed my village….its green fields and farm-fresh produce,” he says.
The 38-year-old and his wife Vindhyavasini had a garden on their terrace. Mithilesh explains, “We live on the top floor of an apartment and initially used the terrace to grow ornamental plants. When the pandemic began, we thought of growing vegetables too.”
However, as the virus began spreading fast through the country, Mithilesh and Vindhyavasini returned to his village for almost a year. “In that time, I learned more about farming and its techniques. This encouraged me to put together an organic vegetable garden back home in Delhi. My idea was to grow enough to meet the needs of my household, and share the excess with others for free.”
A unique twist
Instead of using pots or grow bags, Mithilesh zeroed in on unused PVC pipes in the apartment so he could save a lot of space.
In general, PVC pipes are cheap, easy to find, and can save up on tonnes of space. Moreover, it does not require a complicated set up.
Using this vertical gardening method to his benefit, Mithilesh expanded his garden in 2021, and today grows chilli, coriander, tomato, brinjal, okra, peas, bitter gourd and other day-to-day veggies.
“The PVC pipe garden became a success and people started visiting our place to see the setup. They showed interest in learning how to build a similar garden. As I am fond of writing and also know website designing, I started a gardening portal called Veg Roof,” he says.
This was his first step towards building a farming startup. He also began shooting videos and posting on his YouTube channel with the same name. In April this year, he had Veg Roof registered.
“Despite the abundant information out there on several channels and sites, many people still find gardening a strenuous task. A major issue many face is the limited availability of space. I found that growing veggies on PVC pipes largely solves this problem. I’ve started a pilot project of giving plants that I grow in PVC pipes to people in my locality. This way, they understand it is possible and get an initial push,” he says.
Initially, he gave the first 18 plants of each variety for free. As the results were promising, Mithilesh has started selling the same to anyone interested.
The YouTube channel, on the other hand, is replete with videos sharing tips on gardening, methods of farming, and how to make full use of the available space for setting a garden.
“My aim is to make the people of the city eat what they like, free of poison. Living in the city myself, I’ve come to know that it is a big challenge to get organic vegetables here,” adds Mithilesh. “I want people to understand that organic vegetables can be cultivated even in their small balcony. People are fond of ready-to-use things now. That’s why I provide partially grown plants in PVC pipes to them. All they have to do is pour water and harvest.”
He also says that the COVID-19 period has taught people to eat and live healthily which is greatly behind the success of his startup.
Recently Mithilesh participated in the Dreamdeal Challenge organised by Anupam Mittal, a shark on Shark Tank India,. Mithilesh’s startup idea was well-received in the challenge and he received mentorship from the businessman.
“My ultimate dream is to attract more and more people into farming. I hope this humble startup will be a push for everyone to plant what they eat,” he says.
Read this story in Hindi here.
Edited by Divya Sethu