Harvesting banana, cleaning duck coops, recycling water in fish ponds and applying manure to plantain, lemon and passion fruit vines. That was the itinerary for Shiraz Ansari and his friends last Sunday when they met at Shiraz’s farm at Pangappara. From 10.30 am to 7 pm they toiled hard on the 12-cent plot, taking breaks in between. Things to be done for the coming week and shifts for each of them were also finalised before they dispersed. This is more or less of a routine for Shiraz and his team on Sundays.
Shiraz, co-founder and CEO of Grid Design Solutions in Technopark, a civil engineering firm that deals with structural drafting service of residential, commercial as well as infrastructural projects across the world, is also proprietor of Krishipura, his organic store functioning at Nila building inside Technopark. And among his team of workers on the farm are employees of various MNCs in Technopark.
Shiraz says it was necessity that made him nurture his green thumb. “What pushed me into this was the desire to consume pesticide-free vegetables and organic food. Prior to that, I haven’t done farming of any sort. I haven’t touched a hoe! But, three years ago, I took this land on lease and started farming. There are 15 of us, of which eight are techies. The others work in government and private sectors. To get a better idea of farming methods, I did an online course in organic farming from Kerala Agriculture University, Mannuthy. While a member of the group learnt about aquaculture, another one focussed on duck farming,” he says.
Initially they cultivated vegetables and dug a pond on the plot to grow Tilapia fish. “The yield didn’t disappoint us. In fact we were at a loss about handling the harvest. So after interacting with a few experienced hands we opened Krishipura, an organic store at Pangappara in 2016, which has now become an eco-shop. Since most of our customers are techies, we gave a proposal to Technopark officials to open a branch inside the IT hub. They were supportive and it had a soft launch recently. It will be fully functional by the first week of September,” Shiraz says.
Suryajith K., Sreejith J.S., Bijukumar Appukuttan and Jayrajan Tennison are some of the techies who help him out. “Then there are many others who supply products to Krishipura, including eggs, nithya vazhuthana, cucumber, curry leaves, mint leaves, avocado, long beans, chillies, salad cucumber, potatoes, coconut, quail eggs and so on. Meawhile, we have cut down on vegetable farming on our plot because it is difficult to harvest them on time. So we now focus on fish and ducks, besides cultivating plantain, amaranthus, fruits, curry leaves and agasthyacheera among others,” Shiraz says.
The group works in shifts on the farm. “Before I leave for office, I spend some time at the farm. After office hours, you will find me Krishipura,” he says.
The suppliers are made to sign a self-declaration form in which they give details about the fertilisers used and declare that their product is organic. The items are also tested at KAU, Vellayani, he adds. The product list is being expanded with the inclusion of items manufactured by Kudumbasree units in Venjaramoodu.
“I feel we all have a responsibility towards the society and this is my way of doing it. I don’t find it hard to balance my job and farming. If you enjoy what you do you will have time for everything,” he concludes.
A fortnightly column on life in tech street