Mr. Balbir Singh is a practicing lawyer at the High Court of India. The alarming increase in cancer patients, high mortality rate in poultry and low yield of dairy has triggered him to venture into the field of agriculture.
He has currently taken up the initiative in driving the state of Punjab to convert from inorganic farming to organic farming. He is on a mission not just to encourage farmers to switch by creating an awareness about the ill effects of chemical usage on farms; but also to ensure that these farmers are not at a loss when they convert their farms.
Where are you based and what are you currently doing right now?
I am from Mohali and am a practicing criminal lawyer at the High Court. For the past 6 months, we have been working on an organic distribution company called Organic Solutions Private Limited and we aim at providing an organic ecosystem by carving out a market for organic produce cultivated by farmers. We target on aiding farmers who are practicing organic farming or those who are transitioning from inorganic to organic farming. Our agenda is to provide a market space for organic farmers and provide them with a complete solution so that we can encourage more farmers to convert from inorganic to organic farming.
These days, farmers use lot of chemicals in their fields, which is hazardous to society and the ecosystem, right? So, by working towards this cause, we want to do our bit to create an awareness among farmers. We are aiming inorganic to organic conversion without reduction in yield.
Usually, when one converts from inorganic to organic, the produce goes down by 30 – 40%. So, we have come up with certain products that help in maintaining the yield. Some of these products are available in the market and some are manufactured by our company. These products are already tried and tested in fields and are proved to yield good results. We have got these products tested and ensured to ensure that they are chemical free. The only reason why these products can’t be labelled organic is due to the lack of State government certification. However, this is a safe, residue-limited produce.
By using these products, rest assured, fields will be not acquire more chemicals more than it already has. We are doing our bit to create an organic ecosystem where the demand and supply will be meted out by the farmers itself and those farmers include traditional farmers working on the land, dairy farmers and poultry farmers.
When it comes to the feed used by dairy and poultry farmers, manufacturers sell the feed through commissioned agents. We have eliminated this commission process. We connect with farmers using a mobile app, whereby they can let us know of the requirement and we supply it to the farmer directly.
What is your background in agriculture?
I belong to a farmer’s family. My grandparents and parents used to be farmers. Some of my relatives are still into farming. That is how I reaped this idea. Formerly, we had also adopted chemical fertilizers for our farms. Now, we have stopped that and now we are still reaping wonderful results. Our experiments started on our farms itself. Once we saw how beautifully it works, we decided on promoting it to other farmers.
Mr. Balbir, taking into consideration Punjab’s large-scale agricultural set up, will organic farming gather traction there? I mean are people even bothered about organic farming because of the scale of agriculture they are involved in?
Have you heard of this cancer train from Bhatinda? There is a train from Bhatinda station called the Cancer train. 60% of the travellers aboard this train are cancer patients and they undertake this journey to visit hospitals for cancer treatment. Bhatinda is the highest when it comes to chemical usage, where they use 8-10 bags of urea in one field per season.
I have taken up this initiative as a moral responsibility because we are living in this country and we have to do our bit for this country. This is right time where you can see how it is affecting the citizens of India. We all know that these chemicals are ruining our lives.
We are all happy to spend 6-7 lakhs of our earnings in treatment but we cringe when it comes to spending money on organic food. If we spend a little extra and buy organic wheat we can live safely and save a lot of hard-earned money too. Nobody understands that. These are the things that triggered us to do something different.
The basic problem that farmers – not the organic farmers but the inorganic farmers as well – are facing is that they are asked to conduct organic farming but they don’t get answers on how to keep up their yield and they do not have a conducive market where they can sell the organic produce.
What we have done to counter this is that, we have created a portal called My Fresh Bag and we have connected around 40,000 families to that portal. We control that portal and very soon we are coming up with our brand called Organic Basket, through which we will sell only organic produce. Initially we will start with organic staples like rice, wheat, mustard oil and pulses. Upon gaining response, we will move towards vegetables and fruits also.
I feel this is our moral responsibility to do something like this.
So, who are the people behind this?
We started with 2 people; now we are a team of 20 people, within 6 months. There are 12,900 villages in Punjab. We have divided this data into different blocks of 25 villages each – this comes to 570 blocks. We are appointing 570 block level entrepreneurs into this scheme. We asked them to acquire 1 acre of land from every village. That way we have 12900 acres of land with us within 3 months. We will convert these lands to organic farming.
We anticipate facing issues in the first year; but from the 2nd year we foresee reaping organic produce. We will supplement these farms with our inputs so that the yield doesn’t fall. Like I mentioned earlier, we have organic inputs manufactured by our own company and via other sources as well. We make cakes of these soil inputs which comes to about
Rs. 4000/- Rs. 5000/- and encourage farmers to use this as the soil input.
Our promise is to convert their farms into organic without suffering an yield loss. We have about 50 acres of rice – basmati rice. Without any use of chemicals, we have gathered a yield of 30 quintals per acre. We need to establish that by using the right inputs and farming it right we can get the same yield like when you are using all these chemicals.
Our company will also help in getting farmers’ yield to the end users as well – this way their market is also created. Within 1 months’ time we will get a conducive market for these products. We are also inviting other people as well to come onboard and sell their organic produce via this channel. This is our strategy.
Is this your first entrepreneurial venture?
Yes, you can say that.
Have you started generating revenue or has it not reached that stage yet?
We are now in the process of creating this market. It will take a couple of months before we start generating revenue.
And how long have you been a lawyer?
I was first a banker; then shifted into practicing law for the last 10 years and for the last 6 months I have been focusing on building this company.
This must be more relaxing and fulfilling right?
Yes, I feel I am contributing something valuable and it is a great feeling to reconnect with nature; I get good sound sleep at night.
In the last 6 months, what are some of those things that have got you frustrated?
Nothing really. There is a lot of dedication and the team is working fine. Of course, it will take time before you realize a mindset shift in farmers. There is a rigid sense prevailing that all will be lost without use of chemicals. That part takes a lot of effort and time. Every day we conduct around 10-15 meetings with farmers – this may be either 1:1 or to with a group. We even conduct seminars. But, at the end of the day, we are doing good – I have no complaints.
I am blessed to have a very energetic and optimistic team. I know that it will take time but in a couple of months this, I am sure, will transform into a very good revenue model.
Is there anything more you need to add ?
Yes, I would like to highlight one thing. We have also launched an aloe vera juice and carbon extract. We have pioneered in launching this product in India. This is purely for animal consumption. Nobody has promoted this yet, and again this reaps wonderful results.
When you say animals – what do you mean? What kind of animals is this for?
This is for lactating animals – cows, buffaloes, etc.
We have another product for poultry which is under trial right now. We aim at increasing egg production and our experiments show a decrease in mortality rate in poultry. We have 80% reduction in poultry by introducing aloe vera. One aloe vera crop takes about 43 days to grow and we recommend only Rs. 2-3 of aloe vera into this. By doing this you reduce the mortality by 80%.
You can see on our website that we have a collaboration with a Russian company. It is a 2-way collaboration that provides us with a potassium-based organic product.
This helps achieve 100% germination in your field. We have seen the results for this product. Along with that, there is another product called Nature Cure. It is an aloe vera based manure. We are working on this. It is a dry aloe vera manure. This helps increase the yield of crops.
Apart from these, we manufacture all the other products. So that way, we do have a line of products.
Where is the manufacturing of these products done?
We do a third-party manufacturing right now. Within three months, we will set up our own manufacturing unit.
Flat No 2266,
Sector 67, Mohali, Punjab
Email – email@example.com
Tel – 8699490257