How this farmer earns Rs 1 crore a year from aloe vera farming in drought-prone Satara

Hrushikesh Dhane grows aloe vera over 3 acres in drought-prone Satara, Maharashtra. He harvests the medicinal leaves throughout the year for sale to cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies. He also manufactures aloe-based organic pesticides and insecticides

Rashmi Pratap
New Update
Hrushikesh Dhane at his aloe vera farm in Padali village, Satara, Maharashtra

Hrushikesh Dhane at his aloe vera farm in Padali village, Satara, Maharashtra

Life was not easy for Hrushikesh Dhane after completing his class 10. His agrarian family in Padali village of Maharashtra’s Satara district cultivated jowar, bajra and soybean due to lack of irrigation facilities and low soil fertility. The income was just enough to keep the household running. So instead of traditional schooling, Hrushikesh enrolled for a diploma in crop science after class 10 so that he could work part-time with local companies. 

He then completed a BSc in Horticulture in 2001. “Along with studies, I used to market fertilizers and agriculture inputs for small companies to earn money and help my family. I also began cultivating cucumber and tomato in small quantities on our farm for sale in the nearby mandis,” he recollects.

Soon, the company he worked for asked him to move to another town at a salary of Rs3500 per month. “I thought living independently with that money was impossible. Moreover, I was drawn to farming. So I decided to quit,” he says.

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The roots of agri-entrepreneurship

Hrushikesh began a small nursery business but the income was not consistent. “I used to make grafted saplings of mango, sell moringa plants etc. but the income was inadequate and many people didn’t pay up,” the agripreneur says.

Aloe vera is harvested all around the year, giving a regular income stream.

That’s when he began to make vermicompost under an old banyan tree on his farm. “I took a credit of Rs 10,000 for starting this business. Cow dung was inexpensive; I made beds and started production, selling the product at Rs 5,000 per tonne. As the business grew, I took the license selling organic fertilizers in 2006 and expanded my product range to poultry waste organic manure and mushroom waste manure,” he says.

Also Read: How this Assam woman earns Rs3.5 lakh per month through vermicompost

The turning point, however, was in 2007 when a farmer in a neighbouring village was removing around 4,000 aloe vera plants from his farm because he could not sell the crop.

“I loaded the aloe plants, which he considered waste, in an auto. In a couple of round trips, I brought all of them to our farm for plantation because I knew the importance of this crop,” he says. 

Aloe vera extract is used as a gel, capsule, powder, drink, and concentrate for cosmetic and medicinal purposes.

The global aloe vera extracts market was valued at 3.5 billion dollars in 2023 and is expected to grow to 7.3 billion dollars by 2033, as per a report by Future Markets Insights. India is the second-largest exporter of aloe vera after China.

Hrushikesh planted the discarded aloe vera plants over 3 acres, including 1.5 acres on the periphery because animals don’t consume it. 

Profitable aloe vera farming

“This medicinal plant can be grown in soils ranging from sandy coastal to loamy but is sensitive to water logging. Satara is a drought-prone district but organic farming of aloe vera is profitable,” he says.

The medicinal plant can also tolerate higher pH levels, making it a good choice for relatively infertile lands. 

“I grow aloe vera organically, using only cow dung manure, poultry manure and mushroom waste manure. It can be intercropped with fruits or other plants to maximize returns from land,” he says.

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Aloe vera can also be intercropped with mango, custard apple, moringa etc. 

On average, about 40,000 aloe suckers can be planted over one acre. Hrushikesh uses sprinkler as well as drip irrigation and practices mulching for the crop to reduce evaporation. Once planted, aloe vera is ready for harvest in about 18 months or earlier if the sapling is bigger. The crop can be harvested throughout the year. 

Aloe vera can be propagated through rhizome cuttings instead of repeatedly spending on seeds every season, making it a profitable crop. 

After the harvest, the underground rhizome is dug out and made into cuttings of 5 to 6 cm length cuttings. They should have a minimum of two to three nodes on them. It is then rooted in specially prepared sand beds or containers and once it starts sprouting, it is ready for transplantation. 

“Aloe has wide adaptability and can grow in various climatic conditions. The plant grows well on dry sandy soils with low rainfall,” Hrushikesh points out.

The business of aloe vera 

He sells aloe leaves and also prepares organic pesticides and insecticides using it as the base. Hrushikesh is a strong proponent of processing of raw produce to make the maximum profits.

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“I sell in leaves to cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies in Pune and Mumbai at Rs25 per kg. One leaf is around 600 to 700 gm. Every four to five days, we harvest leaves and send them in boxes. Aloe vera gives income throughout the year,” the rural entrepreneur says.

Aloe vera extracts are used in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

Due to a wide range of medicinal benefits, aloe vera is gaining popularity globally. It is used in formulations for skin and hair due to its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

Apart from selling aloe vera leaves, which yield Rs 6 lakh per acre, he makes the organic aloe vera pesticide sold directly to agriculture companies. 

“I expanded the vermicompost unit under the banyan tree over time and now have a factory to make organic pesticides and fertilisers. The aloe vera pesticide is made using fish oil, karanja seed oil and other ingredients. I sell it in packs of half litre, one litre and in bulk in drums,” he says.

Hrushikesh also prepares and sells an aloe vera herbal spreader insecticide and plant growth promoter. “This organic insecticide has 20 percent aloe vera besides other ingredients,” he says.

“These two products bring in around Rs 80 lakh annually while the sale of aloe leaves from three acres contributes about Rs 18 lakh to the revenues,” says Hrushikesh.

He also cultivates ginger, moringa and mango besides other crops. “I cultivate lemon grass on 2 acres of land. The turnover is Rs 12 lakh from lemongrass leaves. I sell it as flakes,” he adds.

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

Also Read: How organic fruit farming made Rajasthan’s Santosh Devi a millionaire

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