Natural farming with an urban flavour


Father-son duo growing vegetables in over six acres in a bustling locality of Tirupati

A father-son duo are making waves by growing organic vegetables in an area of six acres in a bustling locality of Tirupati city.

P. Prabhakar Naidu and his son Ajay Parthasarathy have been growing vegetables using the natural farming method with no chemicals at their family farm in Thimminaidupalem on the city outskirts. Mr. Ajay, who was working as a mechanical engineer for six years, quit his profession and turned to agriculture three years ago.

Mr. Prabhakar Naidu said that he used to cultivate sugarcane and paddy on his farm and had nearly called it quits after failing to find labour in the city. The father-son duo then switched to growing vegetables like lady’s finger, bitter gourd, brinjal, ridge gourd and bottle gourd on their farm.

Shunning traditional practices, Ajay developed bunds with a tractor, spread mulching sheets on them to keep weeds at bay, employed drip technology for optimal water usage and administered micro-nutrients like egg amino acid, fish amino acid and neem extract for balanced growth and pest control. Similarly, pheromone traps, sticky traps and fruitfly traps were brought in to eradicate aphids, sucking insects and moths.

Zero labour

The biggest cost advantage that the duo achieved was in the form of zero spending on labour.

“There is not even a single worker employed on the farm, as the entirely solar-fenced and mechanised farm is looked after only by my father and me, though in turns,” Mr. Ajay told The Hindu. The State government had bestowed the ‘Best Progressive Farmer’ award on Mr. Ajay for the year 2019.

Though the daily yield is close to 100 kg (three to four varieties included), the ‘organic’ tag has not helped them bag a sizeable market. “We are now tying up with apartments and social organisations like Rotary Club for bulk purchase of the naturally-grown produce. If the consumers look beyond the price tag and acknowledge the health benefits, even a 15% premium pricing will help meet the higher costs,” said Mr. Prabhakar Naidu.

Apart from vegetables, the duo grows betel leaves, lemongrass, Brahmi, teasel gourd, peppermint, basil seeds and Nela Vemu (a Siddha herb now used to build immunity against COVID-19 for their personal use. “We haven’t tried it on a commercial scale yet, as the demand is yet to be explored,” Mr. Ajay said.

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