Farming had always been a part of Thankachan Chempotty’s life. Even as he worked with several FMCG corporations, he nurtured his love for agriculture.

Eventually, his love pushed him towards starting his own farm. In 2005, he decided to do organic farming while juggling his career as a consultant.

He found a 22-acre land in Nanjangud, Karnataka, and started Chempotty Estate along with his wife Jessy, who quit her full-time job as a teacher to focus solely on the farm.

When they found the piece of land, it was laden with chemicals and used for cultivating crops like vanilla, coconut, chikku etc, where the previous owners used several chemicals and pesticides.

It took the couple nearly five years to make the land chemical free and restore its fertility by using a concoction made out of cow urine, dung, and other natural ingredients.

When the land was ready, Thankachan decided to grow different cash crops, adopting a four-layer method.

“I have coconut trees on the first layer, the second layer is for the areca nut trees, and the third layer for cacao and other fruit trees like guava, mangoes, etc. On the fourth layer, we have planted ginger, turmeric, tapioca, sweet potatoes and so on,” he says.

Other than that, the farm also grows fruit trees like cherries, passion fruit, jackfruit, soursop and much more.

According to Thankachan, while areca nut and coconut both pay well, it is his cacao plants that he finds most interesting.

“Usually people sell raw cacao seeds for Rs 45-60 per kg. But if you can do the fermentation processing, the harvest is around four to five times more profitable than selling them as seeds,” he says.

The duo also make value-added products leveraging more revenue and reducing wastage.

“I wanted to do something by using the juice rather than wasting it. It was tasty but had a very short shelf life. I experimented with it and made cacao syrup or a dip. It is sweet, with slightly sourish notes,” he says.

Jessy also makes several other products out of cacao like wine, vinegar and even laddus.

The duo has around 17,000 trees and plants on the estate and makes a total revenue of about Rs 35 lakh a year.