KrishiRatna Awardee Vandit and wife PriyankaNaik are sowing the seeds to an agro-revolution with innovative practises on their farm.
The last few years, especially with the pandemic, have seen youngsters knee-deep in soil and hands dirty in sowing seeds to an agro revolution. In Dhabandorataluka, a young couple, Vasudev (Vandit) and PriyankaNaik, both BSc farming graduates from the Don Bosco College of Agriculture, Sulcorna, have seen their passion bloom into a successful business, Rasraj Farms.They practice innovative farming techniques to boost productivity and create a completely sustainable farm.
Vandit bagged the highest state award of the state government for farmers – the Krishi Ratna Award for 2021. He is the third farmer from the taluka to win the title.
The seeds for farming sown in childhood grew into a profitable career for both. With Vandit’s family from Goa Velha into farming, he recalls assisting his father, Rajendra. About a decade ago, they bought a 21-acre land in Moisal-Mollem. It lay untouched until Vandit took over three years ago.
Priyanka, who also shares a similar family background in farming looked for opportunities post the XIIth standard exams. “We visited the Agriculture department and met MinguelBranganza, who guided them on the course. We got a lot of exposure during the course,” she adds.
Vandit applied his education into developing a sustainable, lucrative business. “Education helped in putting to practise systematic planning and introduce integrated farming, wind breakers, vermin-composting unit, and plant nurseries,” he says.
Elaborating in detail, Vandit explains integrated farming, provides a continuous income stream, even in lean periods.The advantage is that if one crop fails, the other is there to survive. He elucidates that when the price of a kilo of vanilla, that was Rs 50,000 per kg earlier had dropped to Rs 2,000, other crops were sold like nutmeg, black pepper.
Vandit, recently started grafting various fruit-bearing trees including varieties of Goan mangoes and raises seedlings of seasonal vegetables like chillies, capsicum, eggplant (brinjal), tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, that are purchased by the Agriculture department and supplied to farmers.
To ensure his farm is completely sustainable, Vandit started with a commercial unit of vermicomposting. He uses cow dung waste from the cattle he rears and bio-enriches the compost to boost quality. He saved 25 percent due to producing his own manure.
At his dairy unit, Vandit owns around 30 animals which include breeds likeGir, Sahiwal, Red Sindhi, H.F., Jersey and Murra. He grows his own fodder, produces Panchagavya that acts as a very good immunity booster and plant growth promoter.
To further create an additional income stream, Vandit started a bee apiary that serves pollination of crops in the farm. He even gives honey combs to other farmers.
While the husband looks after the daily running of the farm and labour, Priyanka handles the nursery and farm tours. The organic plant nursery focuseson preserving local fruit plants forgotten by Goans. “Goan local fruits like guavas, limes, because of nurseries from other parts of the State the native variety is getting extinct,” she says.
They also offer educational eco tours, where students gain first-hand experience from farm to table. Priyankasays,“We offer nature trails to expose students to what plants look like in nature. Our motto is to educate the younger ones into farming, how the food comes, dairy processing, and how the food is generated from farm to plate.” So far, five schools visited the farm and a farmers group visited the property to learn more about their practises.
The couple also work as agricultural consultants and provide lectures to the youth to take up farming.
Vandit is currently pursuing his MBA. He applies what he learns at the farm. “First thing we did was brand the farm, Rasraj Farms. Rasika is my mother’s name and Rajendra is my father’s. Now everyone knows us as Rasraj. We started social media handles and it has helped market everything via the social network.”
Is it a Lucrative Career Option?
Vandit says, farming requires the 3 Ps-Passion, Patience and Perseverance. “Initially, you need a lot of capital, and take risk. When we started, we took loans and now after 4 to 5 yearswith the plants yielding, we have begun to repay the loans,” says Vandit.
Farming requires hardwork, he elaborates, as ‘Sometimes we get up at 4am in the morning or work late. We are there with the labourers. You can’t sit at home and call them. You need at least 25 years for it to stabilize. You need to work hard and take a chance and do it.”
For finance, they have also availed of Government subsidies on various items to run the farm. He suggests that instead of taking on a big area, one can start small and take one aspect like vermicomposting, dairy, etc. Interestingly, he says, that seedling nurseries are in demand. “The capital is less comparatively and Goa, today requires more than 70,000 seedlings per zonal office. There is no one to take it up.”He took a risk and raised 25000 seedlings under the guidance of the Zonal officer.
Multiple income streams leads to a sustained business. He says thatmost farmers fails because of unsystematic practises. “They don’t focus on the variety of seedlings either. We choose particular hardy, high yielding varieties. We also think ahead and see what crops can yield a good price in coming years.”
Youth coming forward to take on farming may spell a much needed boost to Goa’s ailing agriculture sector.