While studying agricultural engineering, Maharashtra’s Mahesh Asabe read about dragon fruit farming in a magazine.

“Dragon fruit belongs to the cactus family. I read that it requires less water and nutrients. It has a life expectancy of 20-25 years and gives multiple harvests in a year,” he says.

“It has a high benefit-to-cost ratio, can survive the high summer heat and can be cultivated in any kind of harsh land,” he adds.

Mahesh understood he could earn handsomely with dragon fruits even in the dry regions of his village in Maharashtra’s Solapur district.

In 2012, he bought 9,000 saplings at the rate of Rs 110 each and planted them on three acres of land. But he did not get even a single fruit out of those saplings.

“When we got zero returns in the first year, I started feeling depressed as I had invested my family income of Rs 17 lakh. We didn’t even have any other business to survive on,” says the 27-year-old.

Mahesh realised that the saplings he procured were not mature. “Ideally, the mother saplings should have been two years old. We got fooled with the produce. So, it took us two whole years to get returns from the crop,” he adds.

He set up ‘Rukmini Farms’ across 20 acres, from where he harvests at least 200 tonnes of produce, earning him an income of Rs 2 crore annually.

This June, he also aims to launch his processing unit to sell value-added products such as fruit juice, squash, jam, and chocolates.

Looking back at his success, he says, “Today’s generation looks at agriculture as a loss-making sector. With my example, I want to showcase that agriculture can be turned into a good business opportunity.”