Abhishek Dhama – Engineer turns organic farmer

How did you come into farming?
I completed my engineering in Electronics and Communication in 2013. Thereafter I switched my profession to farming because I love nature. I am a person who goes for a walk early in the morning. I have a great connect with nature and I see benefits of it in my body as well.
In 2015, I started my own organic kitchen garden and was quite successful. I used to cultivate for my family. All the produce was chemical free. We have some traditional fruits, for instance, mangoes, banana and papaya. That is how my journey started. We had some land in Delhi, which was owned by my family. I started with some traditional and exotic cultivation there. In due course of time, I learned about medicinal and aromatic plants which were emphasised by CSIR-CIMAP (Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants) institutes around the country. The aroma mission was going on. I connected with CIMAP Lucknow and also with IHBT in Palampur. Currently, I am cultivating on 30 acres of land in Delhi, which includes a few aromatic plants like Chamomile and Geranium, Khas and some medicinal plants like Tulsi.
Along with this, I also started vertical vegetable farming like broccoli, etc. This is something I recently started. Off late, I am also making my own organic fertilizers and pesticides. I own a biogas unit, which is quite large. In addition to all this, I am also working on some latest irrigation techniques like rain gun and sprinkler irrigation. I also have drip irrigation on my farm.

Where did you study your Engg degree from?
I started my engineering in 2009 and completed it in 2013. I am an Electronics and Communications Engineer. I also am interested in fitness and nature. I have a very big space in my heart for Mother Nature. I enjoy my early morning walks and observing nature. Like I mentioned earlier, I started switching from chemicals to natural things around me. I love nature and I enjoy farming! Watching my crops grow gives me huge pleasure and satisfaction.

Can you just tell us about your background, please?
I have an agricultural background. My father and grandfather were farmers. But honestly, until the age of 25, I didn’t have any interest in agriculture. I have always seen people suffering after opting to be an agriculturist – everything is so dependent on many unknown factors like climatic conditions, etc. In fact I had an aversion to this profession owing to this fact.
Then, one day my father passed away. I didn’t know how to venture into the path of agriculture and my family members didn’t want me to become a farmer either. But, by the end of my engineering course, my thoughts changed.
Human beings are awarded with a short life and nowadays most people have all kinds of diseases. By the time people reach 40 years of age, they start having problems like high BP, diabetes, liver problem, etc.
Like I said earlier, my thoughts began to change and I didn’t want to do a 9-5 job and make money in such a way that I will have to spend a good part of my life visiting doctors and consuming harmful drugs. Then, I began researching about health factors. I started going to the gym etc. But they were also using growth hormones and drugs. I did not find anything that would satisfy me.
That is when I started my research on Ayurveda. I found out that there are some herbs which we can use on a daily basis to boost our system.
That was my road of deviation from engineering to farming.

Now that you are in the agricultural field, how do you find it?
Honestly, my family was never dependent on their agricultural income. They had other income sources as well. But, we did have 30 acres of land in Delhi and my father being a farmer used to go out in the fields. It used to be painful to see him toiling in the scorching summer heat and when you go to the market, we used to not realize the fruits of his toil. It was not worth so much of effort, time and money.
These challenges arise today as well especially in the first year of your farming venture. So, I conducted a market research immediately. I concluded that it doesn’t matter how much I produce, what matters is the current market scenario. I researched on the demand of the market, the high/low value crops. This activity helped me a lot. My research started from day one and went on for 7-8 months. I then began managing my farm as per the requirements of the market. I also included some high value crops on my farm, which were not grown in my area. Then, I used technologies like drip irrigation – this reduced my water and electricity cost and also reduced man power.
Basically, I did a lot of trial and error. Some plans worked and some didn’t. My revenue kept fluctuating. But, sooner or later, I learned the trick of the trade.

What are the challenges you face now?
Dealing with the traditional farmers is a challenge.

Why would you be dealing with traditional farmers?
The man power I use on the farm come with a farming background. It is very difficult to convince them to do things my way. Another challenge is that the market is highly fluctuating. Based on the research I did for the last 2-3 years, it doesn’t work the same way always.
These are the two challenges that I can highlight – a highly unpredictable market and stubborn man power. I have done some calculations as per market conditions in the last 7 years to understand the pattern of the rise and fall of the market. These mathematical data can work sometimes, while at other times, things are a total surprise. In surprising situations, I end up doing re plantation etc. So, methods and techniques used to forecast also is highly limited when it comes to farming. Even the temperature keeps varying. Hence,the unpredictable factors are quite challenging.
I also own a factory. Farming is a very challenging space and it requires a lot of physical effort. But, our human body craves for physical exercise.
In the past, we didn’t have sufficient food and we toiled hard. Yet, people lived a good 100 years. So, in that perspective, you get stronger with the physical effort you put in.

Do you take money from this business and invest into agriculture?
My agricultural income is self-sustaining and I also give rent, for the land, to my family. I have taken the land on lease from my family. From the last 6 months, my business is self-sustaining and I am earning about 8-14 thousand per day, excluding all expenses.
Staying focused on market requirements is the main thing. I believe, that is how one manages to make profits. And that exactly is where most of our farmers go wrong.
There are lot of options to be explored in farming, especially in the aromatic and medicinal farming space. For example, citronella, lavender, fennel, jasmine, palmarosa, rosemary, sage, etc. There is a big expanding market in the aromatic front. The wellness industry has huge demands from this sector.

Contact :
Abhishek Dhama
Ravitanya Farms Pvt.Ltd.
Adhira Organic producer Company limited
Qulakpur, Palla
DELHI – 110036
Mobile: +91-9911157118 , +91-9718456666
Email : ravitanyafarms@gmail.com