Kerala farmer harvests 6000 kg rambutan per acre with high-density farming

Biju Narayanan follows multi-level and high-density farming for exotic fruits like durian and longan in Kannur. He retails rambutan at Rs300 per kg and mangosteen at Rs400 per kg besides providing farming consultation, agritourism, and nursery services

Rashmi Pratap
New Update
Biju Narayanan at his farm in Kannur

Biju Narayanan at his farm in Kannur, Kerala

When Biju Narayanan was in the first year of mechanical engineering, his father passed away. The responsibility of managing the family’s rubber farm in Vayathru village of Kerala’s Kannur district fell on Biju. But instead of discontinuing his education, he managed the farm with his studies. 

“That was the only way to pay for my education and household expenses. But I changed the way cultivation was done on the 40-acre farm. I regenerated the land with modern techniques and expanded from rubber to pepper, areca nut, coconut, cashew, and other crops,” says Biju.

After completing studies at the KVG College of Engineering in Dakshina Kannada, he worked in the corporate sector for ten years. “Then I lost interest due to the monotonous nature of the job and decided to take up farming full-time,” he adds.

That’s when Biju began to explore farming scientifically to maximize returns from land.  “I started budding for plantation of cashew rubber and other crops instead of using seedlings,” he says.  While the annual yield from rubber seedling trees is 375 kg per hectare on average, budded plants yield 800 to 1000 kg per hectare.

Biju with durian plants (left) and areca nut (right). Pic: Ulikkal Agrofarms

Biju also opted for high-density farming and multi-level cropping. 

In high-density farming, more saplings are planted in an area compared to conventional planting. It improves yields, productivity and farmer income.  

His extraordinary success led him to venture into farming consultancy. Biju’s Ulikkal Agrofarms in Kannur provides consultation, agritourism and nursery services.

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

Today, he grows exotic fruits like rambutan, mangosteen, durian, Barbados gooseberry and longan apart from pepper, coconut, areca nut, cashew, and others. Along with other farmers, he cultivates over 95 acres of land in three districts of Kerala including Kannur and Ernakulam.

High-density exotic fruit farming

Biju has planted 100 rambutan plants per acre instead of 50-60 planted conventionally. “This means my yield is double as compared to traditional plantation. Over three acres, I have 300 rambutan trees,” he says.

“To be successful, high-density farming has to be combined with drip irrigation and weekly fertigation. I also use foliar every 20 days,” says Biju.

high density rambutan
Yield in high-density rambutan plantation. Pic: Ulikkal Agrofarms

Drip takes the water directly to the roots of the plant, cutting down water wastage. Fertigation is the application of water-soluble or liquid fertilisers through the drip irrigation system, which increases plant growth. This leads to 30-40 percent savings in irrigation water and 25 percent savings in fertilizers as compared to conventional plantations.

“Foliar technique involves applying liquid fertilizer directly to plant leaves. This on-the-spot nutrition speeds up growth, stimulates root development, eliminates common nutrient deficiencies and increases the plant’s resistance to disease,” Biju explains.

“Our farming inputs comprise about 80 percent organic manure, cow dung and cow urine, vermicompost etc. The rest is inorganic, like potash, which ensures very good growth for the plants,” he says.

Also Read: Engineer creates mini forest at home; grows 400 exotic plants

Another important requirement of a high-density plantation is pruning. “After fruiting, we use hard pruning for rambutan since the plantation is old now,” he says. Hard pruning means trimming the plant extensively and allowing it to regrow. Pruning increases sun exposure, and air circulation and encourages the growth of new branches that are primed to bear fruit. 

Higher yields and income

Typically, in high-density plantations, rambutan yield is 3500 kg per acre after five years and can go up to 7000 kg to 8,000 kg after seven years. Last year, Biju harvested over 6,000 kg of rambutan per acre. “I sell rambutan in wholesale at Rs 250 per kg and Rs 300 per kg on a retail basis,” he says. 

At a base price of Rs250 per kg, he earned Rs 15 lakh per acre (Rs 45 lakh from 3 acres) through rambutan farming.

He has also planted around 40 coconut trees between rambutan per acre, increasing income.

Also Read: This 29-year-old grows organic exotic fruits in his backyard, gets bumper crops

Biju Narayanan with a farming consultation client (left) and longan (right). Pic: Ulikkal Agrofarms

Biju has 160 mangosteen trees over two acres and also grows coconut between them. “A mangosteen tree starts yielding fruit after seven to eight years. After ten years, we get around eight to ten kg of mangosteen per plant. It sells for Rs350 to Rs 400 a kg. Mangosteen tree has a lifespan of about 100 years,” he adds. 

Over some acres, Biju also practices  multi-level cropping with plants of different heights. “I grow four to five crops in the same area. So the outermost plantation will be 45 feet high coconut and then 25 feet mangosteen followed by plants of pepper (15 feet) and bananas (10 feet). Below them, I grow tapioca and ginger. They get enough sunlight as the crops are different in height. The only requirement is adequate manure, fertilisers, irrigation and pruning,” says Biju.

“Farmers can triple their incomes by practising multi-level cropping,” he says.

 Ulikkal Agrofarms supplies saplings of 27 varieties of cashew, 11 varieties of coconut, six types of areca nut, 38 varieties of mango, 58 varieties of jackfruit, 12 types of guava, coffee, rambutan, mangosteen, durian, longan and other fruits. “I provide farming consultation to farmers depending on their land elevation, soil quality and tell them about plants suitable for that land, the right amount of irrigation and fertilisers,” says Biju, who travels across India for consultations. 

“I am also doing farm tourism. We are using 15 acres of land for farm tourism where people can come to see 500 types of plants, and spend time in nature. It can be a day visit or stay in cottages,” he adds.

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

Also Read: This innovative farmer earns Rs 10 lakh per acre with olive farming; sells oil at Rs1500 per litre

Look up our YouTube Channel