Gouri Jadhav’s tryst with organic farming, began when she started growing exotic vegetables for her own consumption. In a span of two years, her hobby led her to set up the Earth Alliance Corporation and she now supplies exotic vegetables to Pune, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Her start-up commercially promotes organic farming and also establishes a direct farmer-consumer relationship.
Jadhav, an MBA from Pune, worked in various cities like London, Copenhagen and Qatar, in the banking, logistics and shipping industries for many years. It was during her stay abroad that she developed a fondness for exotic vegetables and organic food. When she came back to Pune in 2013, she was disappointed at not being able to get organically grown exotic vegetables. So, she decided to grow them herself. As she had no knowledge and experience in agriculture, she took help from a consultant and began growing asparagus, baby corn, lettuce, kale, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, etc., on a friend’s farm.
“Soon, I was growing a good quantity of vegetables and shared it with my friends, who also loved it. So, I decided to set up Earth Alliance Corporation and my hobby turned into a business venture. Currently, six farmers work with me and we farm on 25 acres of land,” Jadhav explains. Her full-scale agricultural operation includes organic farming, marketing and exporting the produce.
Hydroponics: Exploring new farming methods
Besides organic farming and growing exotic vegetables, Jadhav also practices hydroponics (soil-less farming) and residue-free farming. “I have always been a problem solver in my career. As soil and weather was a problem, I decided to find another viable option for agriculture and this led me to the research and use of hydroponics,” she states. Jadhav now shares her knowledge about hydroponics and organic farming with farmers in and around Pune, to overcome the challenges of water shortage. She has conducted workshops at the Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce, SLIC (Sakal International Learning Center) and other places, to educate people about hydroponics and also the advantages of consuming organic vegetables.
“Hydroponics is a good option if the soil is not cultivable, or is rocky, or if one is farming in a mountainous area. It is ideal for terrace gardening and urban farming. Since the soil near Pune was not cultivable, I had to opt for hydroponics which is a method of growing plants in inert medium like coco-peat or perlite and adding nutrients through water. The nutrient solution, (macro and micro nutrients) is in liquid form. I prefer to use bio-pesticides produced at the farm itself, as conventional pesticides and fertilisers are harmful to the soil, plants, animals and of course, humans,” she explains.
From farm to food: Encouraging direct links between farmers and consumers
Jadhav recalls that another major challenge in the initial days, was to convince the farmers to grow cherry tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, etc. “I had to convince them to try growing these plants but slowly they agreed, as the demand for exotic veggies was on the rise,” recounts Jadhav, who has guided many farmers to associate themselves with the organisers of weekly vegetable markets in Pune. She has also started her own app called ‘Mango Mango’, where fresh mangoes can be bought online. “Farmers have various challenges like marketing, soil issues and storing and packaging problems. So, we try and help them,” says Jadhav, adding that her goal is to encourage direct buyer-to-producer relations, to make a difference to farmers.
Jadhav now has two retail counters in Pune and supplies to Pune, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad. “I am happy with my journey, from the corporate world to working with soil as a farmer. It is rewarding and satisfying and I enjoy my work,” she concludes.
Tips for eating healthy home-grown food, from Gouri Jadhav
- Start by planting things that you like to eat. You can grow herbs in the balcony or window, where there is ample sunlight. One can easily grow tulsi, pudina, sage, oregano, etc., as they are easy to grow and do not require chemicals.
- One can also grow healthy micro greens like radish, fenugreek, beetroot or spinach. Micro greens are edible vegetables and herbs that are harvested less than 14 days after germination.
- For better health, make a gradual shift in your eating habits. Eat at least two three meals in a week of raw foods such as salads or micro greens.
- Create an in-house compost bin. The compost that is produced from wet waste can be used in the garden.