An army of five graduates is driving an innovative concept and have people eating it with relish !
Organic farming has caught the imagination of a lot of people in an environment where pesticides and genetically modified foods prevail. Many of us are uncomfortable with the adverse consequences, chemicals have, on the food chain of insects, birds, worms, and finally the health of humans.
This was the trigger for five graduates from the Loyola College to get together on a venture to challenge the status quo. Kern Agrawal, Kenneth Lowe, Karan Maheshwary, Ashwin Kurisinkal and Mathews Cherickal –together called The Urban Farmers- came up with an idea and a business plan for farming in Chennai city.
What started as a classroom project turned into an abiding business as they reunited after two years of pursuing their own paths. They identified twin issues that were wrong in the existing farming practices: alarming increase of pesticides and lot of barren land that were increasingly disposed for real estate use.
Kern, the driving force behind the project sought the assistance of the teaching staff at Loyola College. The challenges were almost insurmountable, “where is the space in the city for farming?’ They approached their professor and the solution that emerged was: ROOFTOP FARMING!
They started with a 5,000 square foot space on the campus and a new method called biodynamic farming where natural compost is used.
Dry leaves were collected from the Loyola campus to create a vermicompost. The advantage of biodynamic farming was that the strength of the plant was high, despite a concrete roof base and it needed no chemicals and pesticides. The advantage of this pilot project was the knowledge garnered from the various departments of the college, pooled together.
They started with vegetables such as tomatoes, okra, chillies and herbs. Initially they distributed the produce to college staff and nearby housing complexes in the Nungambakkam neighbourhood. They feedback were spontaneous and effusive. Word of mouth, got the team of five to think of this hobby as a business opportunity.
Now Urban Farmers have over 20 farms in Chennai and these are mostly residential areas. They also contacted corporates to establish, roof cultivation to supply fresh vegetables to their employees.
One benefit of rooftop farming is that, tending the produce and working on the soil can be a de-stressing activity. Red soil, compost, and squirrels combine to help tune oneself to nature.
The team at Urban Farmers help in furnishing a start-up kit, manure, seeds, soil and resources required for rooftop farming. They train the people to set the farm. This is a trend that is slowly catching the imagination as Mathew concludes, “We have a dream of a green city through organic farming and urban terrace farms.”
What started as a new concept might end up being a new revolution in an urban landscape.
OMG-inducing, share-compelling, like-attracting, clutter-breaking, thought-provoking, myth-busting content from the country’s leading content curators. read on...