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Software engineer grows organically traditional rice varieties

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Software engineer grows organically traditional rice varieties

“Farming is not just production – it is planning, production, value addition and marketing.”- Balaji Shankar

“I quit my corporate job as a software project manager to become a farmer,” says Mr. Balaji Shankar. “My original aim in choosing farming was to try and grow food and lead a life close to nature.” Hence he started a farm which he named as Nitya Farm and it is located at Sirkali, Cauvery delta region of Tamil Nadu. Rice, green grams and some fodder for cows are grown at the farm. “I also have a serious urge to do something against the exploitation of our farmers and villages by corporate and governments.”

“Kitchadi samba (a native seed) is my main crop,” shares Mr. Shankar, “This year I harvested 5 tons of my own rice.” The rice is sold only in Tamil Nadu at about RS. 62.5 /kg plus transport cost. “I earn Rs. 30,000 per acre per year after all costs,” and he adds, “I already have too much demand for my rice.”

Giving rough figures of earnings on the yield he shares that farmers doing chemical cultivation generally get the yield of 2000 kg/acre of rice which is sold as paddy for Rs. 10-12/kg which gives revenue of about Rs 24,000 of which Rs. 12,000 is spend on inputs leaving net revenue of Rs 12000.

However the yield at Nitya Farm is about 1500 kg/acre and is sold as rice for about Rs 60/kg giving revenue of Rs 45,000 of which only Rs 10,000 is spent on inputs resulting in net revenue of about Rs 35,000.

“A farmer and his wife, if they work 4-5 hours in the field in 1 hectare of land, they can earn Rs. 5 lakhs a year easily, ” views Mr. Balaji and goes on to say, “Farming is not just production – it is planning, production, value addition and marketing.”

Speaking of the inputs he says, “I use daincha seeds and some cattle pen.” Daincha is called as thakkai poondu in Tamil. It is a green manure crop and is a natural fertilizer.

After harvest the produce is immediately dried for 2 days achieving 10% moisture content and then packed it nylon bags and stored in government godown. “The government gives that facility,” he shares. Milling is started only after 6 months of ageing. “If I have 20 tons I will process at the rate of 1.6 tons per month and supply regularly to all customers,” Mr. Shankar shares as his detailed procedure.

Sharing his knowledge and experience in the field he provides inputs for switching to organic cultivation saying, “Farmers have to migrate 20% of their holdings in every crop. There will be a 50% drop in yield 1st year.” In the second year it will be 75% of the yield and in the third yield will be restored to as it was in the beginning. However, “It is possible to migrate all land without loss of yield,” he shares.

The produce is sold mainly to individuals. “I don’t want middlemen; my aim is to give a fair price to the farmer,” he says. An individual interested to buy have to place a minimum order of 50kg and should be within Tamil Nadu.

“I just want to convert more conventional farmers into organic farmers,” Mr. Shankar shares when asked of his future plans. At present he is working with some farmer groups in the Delta region and is trying to convince them to go organic. “We have DOFA Delta Organic Farmers’ Association but it is a work in progress.”

Mr. Balaji Shankar has a Ph.D in Mathematics.
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