Indian farmer hopes others will join the protected cropping revolution

In India, advancement of agricultural research has increased farm yields but the lower returns for produce and rising costs of chemical and other inputs have made agriculture unprofitable. Manoj Bhatia in Karnal was one of the Indian farmers who sought new ways to increase his farm income and inspires others to follow his path of high tech agriculture.

Manoj left his corporate career as an operations manager in Punjab at Godrej Adhar, an agri retail division of Godrej Agrovet, and went back to his farming roots.

Manoj with the Co-founder of The Agrihub, Rajeeb Kumar Roy

Even though Manoj had a Post-graduation in Vegetable Sciences, he never looked at farming for his profession. When a few of his close friends informed him about the benefits of modern farming in 2010, was became inspired to take up farming on a 2.5 acre plot on the 8 acre land he owned near Karnal.

Baby steps to giant steps
With an investment of Rs. 1.5 lakh (2240 USD) he started with open field seasonal crops; capsicum on 2 acres and ½ acre watermelon with drip irrigation. That year he could not get profits from his failed capsicum crop but he recovered Rs 1.7 lakh (2540 USD) from the ½ acre with watermelons. This inspired him to increase the cultivated area to 4.5 acres the year after.

He found climatic variations the biggest obstacles in the way to his success. In order to reduce the dependence of nature he went high tech and started with protected farming technologies like polyhouses and net houses. Today, Manoj has 32 acres with open field vegetables and 3 acres of protected crops where he grows 5 to 6 varieties of vegetables like tomatoes, egg plants, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, sponge gourd, cucumber and cauliflower. All depending on the season and market demand.

Manoj has implemented the following technologies at his farm for the last 6 years:
  • Greenhouse/Polyhouse : He uses a polyhouse to grow his seedlings, the first step in high-tech agriculture, a healthy seedling helps growing high quality vegetables. He also grows some vegetables in this structures.
  • Drip Irrigation: He uses Netafim drip irrigation technology for a precise control of irrigation and fertigation. He uses water soluble fertilizers, soil enrichments and farm equipment’s to get optimum results.
  • Double layer Net house technology.
According to Manoj, pne of the key parameters to succeed in protected cropping is to produce for the season when the prices are high and competition is less from the open field produce. Though Manoj already had a polyhouse earlier he realised that in Karnal the summer temperature went very high and transplanting in polyhouses was not possible until 15th of August (The time when the temperature begins to come as a down).

Vegetables transplanted during August used to come to market only in February as December and January was the peak winter time. Not only that, due to the severe winter in poly house crop cycle in a naturally ventilated greenhouse could go only up to April end as the temperature started increasing again. In north India, greenhouse planting is done in October for crops like tomatoes, capsicum, egg plant, chilli, cherry tomatoes etc. To overcome this problem, he decided to implement a double layered net house in which (fixed Outer chromatinet pearl and motorised movable Inner aluminet) transplanting could be done as early as in July. This helped him advancing the crop cycle and supply vegetables in October-November during the wedding season when the prices were high. In this structure it is also possible to extend the crop cycle till June enabling year round cultivation. In the net house he uses black and silver mulching supported by a good drainage to drain the excess rain water.

Manoj uses mulching and drip irrigation across his entire farm. It was used to improve the conserved moisture, reduce weeds, save labor, and create a better root system.

Advice to farming enthusiasts
Manoj says, “I would ask people to join us to achieve the success, if they have lost hope in farming. There is a lot of scope in farming; if we do the work properly we can earn more than jobs in government and private sectors. Agriculture graduates should come forward and help the farmers in need.” Looking at his success story, 8 well educated corporate employees in his region have left their respective jobs and made a career switch towards full time farming.

He maintains a perfect work and life balance giving equal importance to entertainment, recreation and fun in life. He is ably supported by his wife Shiwani at times who also helps him in farming and a daughter Suhani, who is studying in seventh grade.

Manoj with his wife Shivani and daughter Suhani

For more information:
Manoj Bhatia
# 320, Sector 5
Karnal, Haryana- 132001
Cell: 9991648152

The Agrihub

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