Nalla Keerai- Helps farmers in organic farming

Grows and helps farmers grow 40 varieties of green organically in half acre of land. Also sells farmers’ produce directly to consumers

Saravanan Santhanam
Saravanan Santhanam

Nalla Keerai is a Chennai based company set up by two childhood friends who were moved by the extreme poverty that farmers across Tamil Nadu lived in. To extend a helping hand to the community, the duo, Mr. Saravanan Santhanam and Mr. Jagan stepped into farming, while undertaking research and development for farmers, alongside. Nalla Keerai aims exclusively to help farmers cultivate organic greens to not just improve their economic conditions but also promote healthy lifestyles.

Through an intensive research that was carried out for a year, the duo found out that about 1.5 crore rupees is spent on three main segments namely fertilizers, alcohol and medicines, every year by a village comprising of 230 families. In 2010, Mr. Jagan decided to encourage farmers to take up organic farming. Traveling across Tamil Nadu, he picked up various nuances of organic farming by actually living with farmers.

Later he helped farmers earn better who were not able to get profits through conventional farming. Many farmers were hesitant to switch to organic farming fearing high prices and instability of income on which their families depended. “We realized that this concern of the farmers could be solved if short term crops are grown. And this was the beginning for setting up Nalla Keerai – Organic Business 50 Cent Model for Farmers”, shares Mr. Jagan.

After three years of hard work trying out different models, finally the break-through came with 50 cent model. Mr. Saravanan explains, “in only half acre of farmland we grow 40 varieties of greens. These are harvested within 16 to 35 days. In this way farmer will be able to earn some revenue every month”. Farmers initially can make only half acre of farm organic and then slowly the rest of the area can also be turned into organic farm. This model is practical and surely will not lead to any drastic fall in the earnings of farmer.

The duo undertook vast research to convince farmers about the profitability of this model by actually implementing it themselves. Currently 35 farmers are associated with them. Both being from non-agriculture background took guidance and help from Mr. Nammalvar, the organic legend and barnard from Auroville, Pondicherry. He solves all technical issues like controlling the pests and farming inputs etc. Nalla Keerai is funded by the duo and their friends. “If you focus on half acres, anyone can start growing green with just Rs. 15000.

Jagan R
Jagan R

In the pathway between beds of plants, one can cultivate plants like ponangani that live in water, thus making the most of available space. 200 bundles of crops can be cut every day,” shares Mr. Sarvanan. Nalla Keerai is currently farming in a cycle, where 10 farmers cultivate the farm in a week, and the next 10 in the other week. “For farmers who cultivate half of their land, if they don’t want to go on a monthly basis, they can sell their crops from second month. They can sell 150 bundles, and after six months they can sell 500 bundles per day. Thus if they sell 500 bundles and at least get a profit of Rs. 2, they can make Rs. 1000/day, and in 20 days they can make Rs. 20,000,” Mr Saravanan further adds.

40 varieties of greens have been divided in three segments:
• Consumer greens like spinach, fenugreek and coriander etc
• Medicinal greens that can be used for treatment of diabetes, jaundice and dermatological issues
• High end greens used in hotels and restaurants like basil and peppermint

All cultivated greens are taken to the market directly by Nalla Keerai to reach the consumers directly to avoid middlemen exploitation. Farmers are asked to estimate their production cost and fix a price where they can expect 20 to 30% returns. Customers also get in touch directly with the farm, sending them their requirements through SMS and emails. Pre-orders are collected, and harvest is made accordingly. Volunteers sell these greens in parks and apartments where consumers can collect their orders.

The farm is open to consumers who wish to understand the authenticity of the organic aspects of the greens supplied to them. They believe such visits will also motivate the farmers to serve the customers they know in a better way. Mr. Sarvanan believes that the farmers should have the right to fix the prices of their products as seen in Karnataka.

The farm sells its greens at nominal prices to reach out to different social classes. Despite having just 10 farmers, 20 laborers, and 5 marketing professional, the farm has come a long way in helping farmers get good investments on their returns and also serve consumers. Most of the marketing professionals like delivery, quality and production managers, work on a voluntary basis. The farm successfully sells its produce to 20 places in Chennai. They are looking to provide more varieties to their customers by cultivating vegetables in the future. Nalla Keerai hopes to keep their process simple and involve more farmers in their initiatives to help them benefit from organic farming.

Mr. Jagan is a graduate who worked for different companies as a manager. He quit his well-paying job to start a school. He was involved in intensive social work till he devoted all his time to Nalla Keerai 3 years ago. Mr. Sarvanan is a B.Sc graduate who worked for the IT field in US for over 15 years. His job helped the duo fund their social activities. He returned to India to devote himself to Nalla Keerai and take the initiative a step ahead. The satisfaction of seeing their brainchild makes a difference financially and socially, keeps them motivated.

Our Correspondent

Contact details: Nalla Keerai
Sadhana Kudil,Venkatasa Puram,
Venkatasa Nagar,Pakkam,Chennai – 602024 Mobile: +91 99626 11767

Source : Agriculture & Industry Survey