This engineer quit his job to grow exotic fruits; sells rambutan and mangosteen at Rs350 per kg

Chethan Shetty grows spices and exotic fruits at his farm in Mangaluru using organic farming methods. He sells pepper, mace, turmeric and over 4,000 kg of rambutan, mangosteen, avocado and other fruits annually under the Manjanna Shetty Family Farms brand

Rashmi Pratap
New Update
Chethan Shetty with rambutans (left) and mangosteen grown on his farm

Chethan Shetty with rambutans (left) and mangosteen grown on his farm

When Chethan Shetty was heading South India sales for Clear Edge Filtration, he lived alone in Bengaluru while his parents were at their ancestral home at Bellare near Mangaluru, Karnataka. During his free time, Chethan began to cultivate mushrooms in his kitchen.

“I did some batches as an experiment, and the results were good. I thought of replicating it at my family farm, where we had been growing paddy and other crops for three generations,” says Chethan, who completed his mechanical engineering from Malnad College of Engineering in 2009.

The mushroom output at the farm was also good and set Chethan thinking about quitting his job. However, instead of sharing his plans with the family, he started taking more interest in farming and helping his father whenever he visited home. At that time, the family was cultivating areca nut, pepper vine and coconut besides other spices and fruits on their 4-acre ancestral farm.

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“In 2014, we switched to organic farming. It was an emotional trigger -- if we could grow organically, without using chemicals, then why not?” he says. 

In 2015, Chethan planted 1500 pepper vines and experimented with turmeric cultivation in 2016. “It was rainfed and we got around 165 kg of organic turmeric powder from three-fourths of an acre. Instead of selling it fresh, we processed it and sold the powder at Rs450 per kg,” he says.

Avocado and rambutan at Manjanna Shetty Family Farms

From sales engineer to farmer

In 2017, Chethan quit his job to become a full-time farmer though his family opposed the decision vehemently. “I had been planning and waiting for the right time. It took a few years for my parents, especially my mom, to accept my decision,” he says.

Soon after quitting, Chethan bought more land and planted fruit trees over four acres – 500 rambutan, 50 mangosteen, 50 avocado and 100 papaya plants. “We brought them from a nursery in Kerala. While rambutan and mangosteen cost Rs 350 per sapling, avocado was Rs 200 and papaya around Rs30,” he says.

This new farm earlier had cashew trees, which were not fruiting anymore. Chethan cleared them, prepared the land and planted the fruit trees. He also dug a bore well and made irrigation arrangements. 

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“We planted 500 rambutan saplings at a gap of 15 feet though the recommended distance is 35 feet. The reduced distance will result in higher yields per acre. In the sixth and seventh year, when we trim the trees, some will be cut off,” he explains.  

fruits at manjanna farms
From spices to fruits, the produce is grown organically at Manjanna Shetty Family Farms

Rambutan is a juicy fruit with a taste similar to that of lychee and grapes. It came to India from Malaysia and Sri Lanka and was initially planted in home gardens of Kerala. Later, it spread to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Since a large quantity of rambutan is imported from Malaysia, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries, there is a good scope for Indian farmers to take up its cultivation.

Rambutan’s flowering season extends from January to May and fruits are harvested from July to October.

Each rambutan tree yields 25-30 kg output per year, with the wholesale price being Rs 200 to Rs 250 per kg. This amounts to an annual revenue of around Rs7000 per tree. 

“We also offer door deliveries across India at Rs350 per kg. Since rambutan has a shelf life of only five days, we take pre-orders and send them by train, road, or by post,” Chethan points out.

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He planted another 100 rambutan trees last year which will start yielding fruits in a couple of years. The other exotic fruit he grows is mangosteen, which is sold at Rs250 per kg in the wholesale market and retails at Rs 400 to 500 per kg. 

Fresh peppercorns (left) and mangosteen tree (right) at Manjanna Shetty Family Farms

“I have sold mangosteen even at Rs 750 per kg depending on the quality of the fruit and demand-supply situation. A healthy well-grown mangosteen tree can yield 25-30 kg of fruits annually. I will be planting 60 more trees this year,” he says.

Both rambutan and mangosteen are hardy trees that don’t need any insecticides and pesticides. While a rambutan tree continues to fruit for 60 to 80 years, a mangosteen tree can give fruit for 200 years.

Chethan sells his organic exotic fruits under the brand name of Manjanna Shetty Family Farms. “We also sell fruits of other farmers who are unable to access the market profitably on their own,” he adds.

Exotic fruit farming organically

Among spices, he has planted vanilla, more than 1000 vines of black pepper, 40 trees of nutmeg, mace flower and turmeric over half an acre. Pepper cultivation in coastal climates is prone to wilt disease post-monsoon. “So we decided to go for grafted plants as the stump is from a different plant pippali (long pepper) and is resistant to wilt. On that, the pepper vine is inserted and grafted, ensuring no contact of the vine with soil,” explains Chethan. He sells the pepper to end users at Rs200 per 200 gm, which is also the rate for turmeric powder.

Organic fertilizer made on the farm (left) and packaged turmeric

Chethan prepares organic inputs on the farm. 

“After shifting to organic farming in 2014, I started using jeevamrit, chicken manure (faeces of chickens rich in nitrogen), goat manure (composted goat droppings), cowshed manure (made using dung, leaf litter and grass etc.) and started looking for more options.”

He now also uses castor cake. “I keep experimenting with inputs and in a year, I feed plants with them at least three to four times. I also get bio-potash, a biofertilizer made from sugarcane extracts,” he says.

He procures cow dung mostly from farms around his fields. “They take the grass from here and help remove the weeds while we get the dung from them. So it is a type of bartering.”

Right now, Chethan is focused on marketing exotic fruits and roping in more farmers. “The idea is that along with cultivation, we should be able to sell the produce as widely as possible. Cutting out wholesalers and mandis is the only way for farmers to be profitable,” he says.

(Rashmi Pratap is a Mumbai-based journalist specialising in business, financial, and socio-economic reporting)

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