Working in the IT sector for more than four years, Mandeep Verma, founder of Swaastik Farms, wanted to return to his home town in the Solan district of Himachal Pradesh.

“I wasn’t satisfied with my job, and my career growth was not as expected either. I decided to quit, wanting to establish an entity that I could build from scratch,” he says.

Unsure of what to do next after quitting his job, he decided to turn to his roots. He had 4.84 acres of unused ancestral land in Shilli, which he decided to convert into a farm.

However, converting the land into a flourishing farm took Mandeep a solid five months of groundwork.

The land was on a slope and uneven, and Mandeep had to remove the wild vegetation and level the soil.

Additionally, the land was barren and had never been used for farming activities, so Mandeep was unsure of its fertility.

“I believe that nature always inherits nutrients such as foliage, organic matter, decomposed animals and others…  I decided to put faith in it by not using any chemicals for farming,” he says.

Mandeep also used jeevamrut, a mixture of cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, gram flour and other organic material, to add nutrients to the soil.

Another challenge that he faced and most farmers in the area faced was a monkey menace.

He approached a few professors at the Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University, who suggested he grow kiwis.

“Kiwi is sour during its initial fruiting days, and the hair-like surface deters monkeys from touching the fruit. It also fetches good market value for being a niche and exotic fruit,” he shares.

In 2017, he launched his business under the name Swaastik Farms and floated a website.

The website fetched him customers from Uttarakhand, Chandigarh, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru,

After succeeding in growing kiwi, Mandeep invested in developing an apple orchard.

Presently he has 700 kiwi plants producing 9 tonnes of fruits and 1,200 apple trees generating him a revenue of Rs 40 lakh a year.