It was after 12 years at desk job in the IT industry that Sriram Prasad decided to get his hands dirty, literally. He took up farming in 2015 and is now the CEO of an exclusive store that sells over 100 varieties of spinach.
“The choice was obvious,” he begins. "I come from a family of agriculturists who have been farming for decades. So the spark and passion were always there," he adds. When egged on about why he chose spinach, Sriram says that it’s a vegetable that people from across economic strata can afford and consume. "Further, spinach is easy to maintain and the crop cycle is 20-25 days. So in a year we can take 12-14 harvests and end up with profit also," he explains.
After two years of research, trial and error in farming, keeraikadai.com was launched in 2017 as a specialised shop selling spinach and other herbs used in cooking.
"We initially started out catering to apartment complexes. Every morning, around 5.30 - 6 am, we would harvest the produce and take it to apartment complexes for sale. By 8 am were done. As the sales increased, we built an app to reach more people. By December 2017, we set up a physical store nearby as well," Sriram narrates.
Keeraikadai basically employs farmers with land and gives them the seeds and the manure necessary to grow spinach. It also directly procures the produce from the farmers, which is then sold in the shops and online in its portal. "We basically take care of all logistics for the farmers. We take our vehicle to the field, weigh and bundle the harvest and pick it up ourselves. This has eliminated the need for a middleman thereby giving the farmers double the amount they earn otherwise," Sriram explains.
About 25,000 bunches of spinach can be harvested and sold from one acre of land. "An acre is roughly 44,000 sq feet. Taking one spinach bed to be of 10x10 dimension, we can put 300 beds in that land and use the remaining land as waterways and path for walking. We harvest 100 bunches of produce from each bed of this dimension. Assuming the worst case possibility of 5 bunches wastage in every bed, the tally comes up to 25,000 bunches in every harvest cycle," he explains.
Each bunch of spinach gives the farmer anywhere between five and seven rupees when sold without a middleman.
Scientific farming is the way forward
The Jallikattu protests in Tamil Nadu in January 2017 spiked the interest in agriculture and farming among the younger population. The topic is being discussed far and wide with people expressing a desire to switch streams and start growing crops. Sriram approves that now this is in the mainstream and many are talking about it. "Farming can be done literally anywhere if there is adequate research and logic to it. You need to take soil tests, look for scientific ways to control weed growth among crops, sustainable and practically possible ways of irrigation etc. for best results from the harvest," he explains.
Soil tests help in narrowing down crop options and proper research will help in zeroing in on the suitable irrigation methods for the optimum result, he adds. "Soil can be made to suit some crops with the help of manure like cow dung. It takes time and patience, obviously, but is not impossible," Sriram states.
Apart from increasing sales, keeraikadai team is also planning to educate people on sustainable farming methods. "We have taken two steps to make today's younger population aware of farming and its process. Firstly, we give seeds to children who visit our shops. Secondly, we are providing farming classes for school students. It can be mainstreamed that way just like music, dance etc given in schools," says Sriram.