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How Bangalore's docs, techies are investing in scientific farming

Thursday, 26 September 2013 - 12:41pm IST Updated: Thursday, 26 September 2013 - 6:44pm IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: dna

Moving away traditional farming techniques, professionals from all walks of life are enabling large-scale scientific farming.

What is the picture that springs to your mind when you think of a cardiologist? A super busy doctor finding, treating and preventing diseases of the heart, one who has little time for anything but saving lives.  Dr Srikanth KV, cardiologist with HCG hospital in Bangalore, does all that and more.

He belongs to a growing tribe of next generation farmers – those who invest and enable large-scale scientific farming. About a year back, a small team of intrepid entrepreneurs from Bangalore started a unique green investment venture called Hosachiguru, adopting scientific farming techniques to convert acres of dry land into commercially viable and sustainable farms.

It was their idea of cultivating land productively and sustainably, both for the earth as well as those who invest in it, that appealed to Dr Srikanth. “I have always been interested in nature conservation and green causes though professionally I pursued medicine. This venture gives me a chance to feel I am also a farmer and that I am doing something for the environment. For someone who has no farming background, it is tough to get into farming otherwise,” he says.

According to Dr Srikanth, it gives him an ongoing passive income, and a long-term asset comes as a bonus. India with its burgeoning population and rapid urbanisation, involving a huge exodus of farming communities to the cities, needs higher agricultural productivity, believes Srinath Setty, who heads Hosachiguru – meaning ‘fresh sprout’.

Setty, an engineer, belongs to an agricultural family from Raichur and is well aware of the challenges faced by farmers. “Subsistence farming is no longer sustainable,” he says.

The core team of Hosachiguru includes co-founder Sriram Chitlur, an engineer trained at the Institute for Wood Science and Technology; Hemanth Prakash, an IITian adept at strategy and investment having worked with MNCs, governments in the Middle-East and multi-nodal agencies in infrastructure, land and economic development and natural resource management; and Ashok J, engineer and expert in scientific and technology driven agriculture with over three decades of experience in hydroponics, timber farms, horticulture and floriculture.

“I feel good to be repaying the debt to nature by improving the greenery all the while earning tax-free passive income. Even if there is no income, I am losing nothing as at the end of the day, I own the land,” Dr Bharath Chandra, one of the next generation farmers, says.

How does Hosachiguru farm?

“We collectively procure large parcels of unused arable land for those who are willing to invest in sustainable, scientific farming. They typically tend to be busy executives like corporate managers, doctors, lawyers, auditors and businessmen looking for alternate opportunities to responsibly grow their wealth and generate passive income,” Srinath explains, who heads Hosachiguru.

These ‘next generation farmers’ lease back the land to the Hosachiguru team, who turns it into sandalwood farms with short-term complimentary crops like pomegranate and drumstick. So far, they have 125 acres of land under cultivation in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh–one of the driest region in India–and is consulting with another 250 acres of farms.

“Our farming approach, employing rain water harvesting and other techniques, have actually enhanced the soil quality and water table levels in the region. By employing local farmers, we have created sustainable livelihoods for nearly 100 people,” Srinath says.

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