Priyanka Amar Shah, founder of iKheti, believes that urban farming has the potential to make cities greener. iKheti, a social enterprise started in 2012, works on the principle that a small vegetable garden, can be easily nurtured in a window’s grill or sill, balcony, vertical wall, terrace and open spaces like gardens in a housing society.
“Depending on the space and sunlight one can nurture organic veggies easily,” maintains Shah.
“One can grow Italian basil, mint, celery, curry leaves, lemon grass (which is a mosquito repellent), etc. If one loves butterflies, then, nurture pentas, ixora and lantana, which attract them. Plants such as areca palm, peace lily, and ficus spider grass, filter out pollutants and help to maintain a healthy environment at home,” elaborates the Mumbai-based Shah, who grew up seeing her family grow various vegetables and herbs at home.
Benefits of urban farming
Urban agriculture may be an informal activity so far but it brings better health and nutrition, food security and contributes to social life.
When farming is done in harmony with nature, it helps to increase the biodiversity and preserve the ecosystem. “Every creature on this planet has an important role to play and when we grow plants organically, we let each creature do exactly that,” says the 29-year-old Shah, is also an MBA graduate.
‘Compost, grow, sow’ has been iKheti’s mantra.
Shah hopes that iKheti, with its mantra of ‘compost, grow, sow’, will be a one-stop shop, for urban farmers and gardeners. Along with her team of seven members, the firm offers green consultancy, raw materials required to set up urban farms and maintenance/gardening services and even conducts workshops. “Since it is a blooming concept, most of our clients prefer taking comprehensive services. iKheti has also ventured into composting, green gifts and converting rooftop and patios into green areas,” says the eco-entrepreneur.
Her clients range from individuals, societies and corporates, to educational institutes and restaurants. She has conducted more than a 100 workshops, to create awareness and teach urban farming.
“Currently, we are working with a few schools, where urban farming is a part of their curriculum. I believe that the future generations have an added responsibility of saving the planet and this responsibility has to be inculcated early in childhood,” Shah insists.
iKheti was started, to empower people to practice sustainable urban farming and lifestyles. Urban farming has several benefits. One can cultivate and enjoy healthy, pesticide-free food which is the first step towards good health. Organically grown foods have more nutrients because the soil is nourished with chemical-free fertilisers and sustainable practices. Moreover, such foods taste better. Urban farming also contributes to making the surroundings green and adds to the aesthetic beauty. Gardening helps to relax, de-stress and promotes the formation of groups that help the environment.
iKheti, which presently offers services in Mumbai and its outskirts and Pune, plans to spread to other cities of India. “We have already begun diversifying into developing edible landscaping. This involves using food plants as design features, to make it is visually appealing and also useful,” she explains.
“Urban farming encourages people to have sustainable lifestyles and lower the carbon footprint. Through iKheti, we want to showcase how cities can be transformed from being mere consumers of food to producers,” Shah concludes.