Educated new-age farmers are sticking to the soil and adopting ultra-modern techniques to foray into uncharted fields.
FROM IIT LABS TO OPEN FIELDS
Aashish Ahuja, 44, Kinoo Grower, Abohar
Situated in the picturesque Abohar Wildlife Sanctuary, there is a farm where a quiet and ever-smiling farmer grows kinoos and oil seeds. These may be common crops in this region, but the agriculturist does not fit the bill of the pre-conceived notion of a farmer. A graduate in Chemical Engineering from IIT, Delhi and an M. Tech. degree holder from Texas Tech, USA, Aashish Ahuja, who lived in Delhi all his life, decided to move his base to Abohar in 2001 to make farming his full-time occupation. “Our family has owned this land ever since I was a child. This is where I always wanted to live. This place puts me at peace, gives me a chance to work alone and lets me decide my own agenda,” says Ahuja.
The Road to Organic: Ahuja is on his way to make all operations at his 90 acres cultivated land completely chemical-free including the plums, figs, peaches and guava crops. He uses solar energy to power motors that draw water from a tank in the farm and has innovated equipment that minimise human interaction with chemicals.
Young Farmers: The farmer thinks a lot more stress needs to given on the correct way of marketing in order to make farming a lucrative option for youngsters.
THE STRAWBERRY KING
Uvie Kahai, 45, Strawberry Grower, Ropar
Between several glasses of fresh kinoo juice at his farm in Ropar, where he cultivates strawberries in 70 acres, Chandigarh-based Yuvi Kahai, an Economics graduate and a fi rst generation farmer looks towards the sprawling green fields in front of him. “It all started in the early 1990s when an American team visited Punjab looking for farmers willing to diversify and grow strawberries. I was one of the first to jump the bandwagon,” says Kahai, who also grows Marsh grapefruit, Rio red grapefruit and sweet oranges. Despite all the hard work and the unpredictability involved in farming, he has never repented his decision to be a full-time agriculturist.
“The independence that comes with this job and the sheer pleasure of seeing the growth cycle of the crop is indefi na-ble. Moreover, it constantly introduces you to the fact that someone else is always stronger than you-untimely rain or hail can destroy everything. ”
It Pays to Be Modern: Kahai attributes his success to constant modernisation and keeps himself updated with latest agriculture practices from around the world. He adds, “I introduced drip irrigation after attending a course conducted by Israeli agriculture experts in 1998. We were acquainted with diff erent ways to save water and increase yield without giving in to the temptation of using harmful pesticides.”
Back to the Soil: Kahai, who also grows and supplies purple potatoes to five-star hotels in the region, feels that unless the high risk factor is obliterated from farming, a large number of children born in agricultural families will keep opting for other professions.
Avtar Singh Dhindsa, 58, Floriculturist, Sangrur
From a landscape officer in Improvement Trust of Ludhiana to one of the leading flower exporter of the country, the journey of 58-year-old Avtar Singh Dhindsa, of village Langrian in district Sangrur, is nothing short of remarkable. One of the largest producers of dehumidified cold stored flower trees in this part of the country, Dhindsa runs a flourishing floriculture business that exports flowers to scores of countries across the globe. Boasting of a 100 per cent export oriented business, the farmer along with his brotherand other family members, manages a farm of over 200 acres at Langrian, on the Nabha-Malerkotla road, where he grows flowers of diverse varieties.
Export Potential: The farmer, who exports flowers to Europe, Japan, Australia, Korea and Taiwan, also sells 70 to 90 tonnes of flower seeds every year across the globe. As of now, his annual turnover is two million dollars.
The Economics: Dhindsa says there is a need to educate agriculturists on diversification of crops. A floriculturist earns more than five to six times as compared to a farmer who grows conventional crops like wheat and paddy. “How do you expect the famers to experiment unless they know about the benefits of unconventional crops? The state government needs to hold awareness camps and offer benefits to farmers who agree to get into floriculture,” he says.
IN THE LAND OF MILK
Ranjit Singh Langian, 34, Dairy Farmer, Moga
A decade and a half back, when he asked his father for Rs 5 lakh to set up a modern diary, his father said, “I will give the money, because I don’t mind a good gamble.” And the gamble paid off. Ranjit Singh Langian now has 300 cows that produce 2,000 litres of milk every day. The present value of his diary farm is pegged at whopping Rs 8 crore. Honoured by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for running the most modern and mechanised farm in Punjab in 2014, Langian attributes his success toadoption of latest technology from across the world.
Technology is the Key: Owner of the Gurkirpa Dairy Farm, spread over four acres, at village Langian near Moga, the farmer ventured into dairy farming in 1998. Incredible as it may sound, only one full-time employee takes care of the entire farm.
Automation wonder the farmer has imported a milking machine from Sweden and also sensors and related equipment that give complete information about the cows’ health, including expected milk yield. Langian’s milk yield has increased 10 to 12 percent since he mechanised. “I supply all my milk produce to progressive dairy farming association, which supplies it in the market under the brand name of la pure (milk, ghee and lassi),” he says.
Narinder Singh, 32, Potato Farmer, Moga
Next time you eat fries at McDonald’s, think about Moga-based Narinder Singh Sohi, who ventured into potato farming using ultra-modern techniques at the age of 20.One of the leading potato growers of Moga, owning 100 acres of land, Sohi sells his produce to multinational brands like McDonalds, which use it for fries, and PepsiCo, which makes Lays chips from his produce.
Forward Thinking: A first generation potato grower, who hails from a family of agriculturists, Sohi, all thanks to the modern farming techniques that he has adopted at his sprawling 100-acre potato farm, is able to manage it all by employing only four persons. Sohi attributes his success to the modern equipment that he has imported mostly from Israel. “I visited Israel eight years ago to study local farm practices and got a glimpse of how latest technology can be instrumental in increasing yield manifold. All the equipment at my farm have been imported from Israel and other countries like Germany,” he says.
Government Help Crucial: “In order to ensure that the potato growers have a flourishing business, the government should start export of potato,” he says. Sohi is also of the opinion that imported equipment can provide the much need shot in the arm to the farmers. “I am not saying that the equipment available here is of poor quality but specialised farm equipment from abroad at subsidised rates would really help the farming community,” he concludes.
NURTURING THE EXOTIC
Dr. A.S. Sekhon, 65, Exotic Vegetable Grower Fathegarh Sahib
Five years ago, Dr. Amarsatinder Singh Sekhon, belonging to an affluent family of landlords, decided to pursue his hobby of growing exotic varieties of vegetables at his ancestral farm and ventured into modern farming at his farmhouse in Kaurgarh village, near Amloh in district Fatehgarh Sahib. What started as a hobby became a passion and now he supplies a part of his produce to multinational chains like Walmart.
The Game of Numbers: Admitting that the exotic vegetables, including seedless cucumbers, coloured capsicums, coriander, lettuce and exotic Italian herbs, have a given a boost to his income, Sekhon says, “Growing exotic varieties of vegetables remains a labour intensive exercise and there is a perpetual shortage of labour with many village hands getting work under different government schemes like NREGA.” He adds, “The competition has increased considering the fact that the Union government gives a subsidy of 50 percent for setting up a polyhouse.
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