Seven techies who engineered farming success stories

With a growing awareness of living sustainably and eating healthy, many techies are quitting jobs to take up farming. Engineering education enables them to replicate technical knowledge on the farms to cut costs, enhance crop yield and help other farmers

US Anu
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Seven techies who engineered farming success stories

Seven techies who engineered farming success stories

A degree in engineering remains one of the most coveted educational qualifications in India even today. A good academic score also guarantees employment in the crowded job market. But some people land dream jobs, work for some years, and then decide to follow their inner calling.

The trend of quitting interesting and well-paying engineering jobs to take up farming has accelerated in the last decade. With the growing awareness to live a sustainable life, maximize resource utilization without harming the environment and eat healthy, more and more people are moving towards natural and organic agriculture.

An engineering degree comes with the added advantage of replicating technical knowledge on the farms to cut costs, improve productivity and enhance crop yield. Education also helps take advantage of various subsidies and government schemes designed to support farmers.

The best part, however, is that an educated farmer can turn around the fortunes of other farmers who lack awareness about the latest equipment, farming technologies, and market access. 

Here are seven engineers who became successful farmers through their methodical planning, organization and execution skills:

1. Varkey George, Tamil Nadu

After pursuing his postgraduation in electrical engineering at the University of Texas and working in the US for six years, George returned to India to take up farming. Hailing from an agrarian family, Varkey spent his formative years on his ancestral farm in Kootickkal, Kerala. When he was working for Texas Instruments in the US, his family acquired land in Kombai, Theni, in Tamil Nadu.

Exotic Fruits and Fermented Fodder
Passion fruit plants at Varkey George's farm. Pic: Varkey George

Today, he grows exotic fruit varieties -- longans on three acres, Meyer lemons and grapefruit on seven acres, passion fruit on six acres and has planted 30 avocado plants on a pilot basis. He sells avocados and Meyer lemons at over Rs330 per kg and, overall, earns four times more per acre than traditional fruits.

Here’s his detailed story: Engineer quits US job to cultivate exotic fruits in TN, earns four times more per acre than traditional fruits

2. Kavita Mishra, Karnataka

In 1996, when Kavita Mishra was pursuing computer engineering, she got married. She passed out of college in 1998 and got a job offer from IT giant Infosys but did not take it up. Her husband showed her family’s barren 8 acres of land in Kavital, in the Raichur district of Karnataka.

She attended a three-day training on sandalwood cultivation at the Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST), Bengaluru, and turned around that rocky piece of land. She has cultivated 2500 trees of sandalwood, which will bring crores of rupees in income by 2027. A strong believer in integrated and organic farming, the computer engineer also grows fruits and raises cattle and poultry at her farm in Karnataka apart from training others for free in sandalwood cultivation.

Here’s her story: How this engineer turned barren land into organic sandalwood and fruit farm

3. Mahesh Asabe, Maharashtra

In the drought-prone Sangola taluka of Maharashtra’s Solapur district, a 27-year-old engineer is leading the way in dragon fruit cultivation. Mahesh Asabe has planted dragon fruit over 20 acres of his family farmland and now earns Rs10 lakh per acre in the dry region where agriculture is considered a loss-making proposition.

sorting of dragon fruits
Sorting and packaging of dragon fruits at Mahesh Asabe's farm. Pic: Mahes Asabe

In 2018, Mahesh completed his BTech, followed it up with an MTech and worked in the corporate sector for three years. He then decided to help farmers in his village with the latest farming technologies and market access. About 95 percent of the produce is sold from his farm and the buyers include wholesalers and supermarkets. These wholesalers also procure from other farmers in and around Sangola, helping them earn more at lower costs.

Here’s Mahesh Asabe’s story: Maharashtra’s engineer-farmer earns profit of Rs 9 lakh per acre from dragon fruit farming

4. Ashwin Sawant, Maharashtra

After completing his Mechanical Engineering from Mumbai University, Ashwin Sawant landed a job with a company in Dubai in 2009. One of the clients his company was servicing owned a goat and camel farm with over 2,000 animals. The farm owner was feeding hydroponic and dry fodder to the cattle, which were healthy and exhibited good growth.

The year was 2010 and it was the first time that Ashwin had seen a hydroponic fodder growing facility. The next year, he quit his job and came back to Mumbai. He set up a hydroponics fodder farm in Junnar, Pune when the farming technique was still in its infancy in India. Requiring 90% less water and land, he now replicates the hugely profitable model across India.

Here are the details: How this Maharashtra engineer became a hydroponics fodder millionaire

5. Sankalp Sharma, Madhya Pradesh

After working for over a decade in the banking sector, Sankalp could not ignore the call of the soil. His family owned 12 acres of farmland in village Chak-Mehrukhedi of Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha district and Sankalp wanted to take up farming there. “I was moving up the corporate hierarchy but I was not enjoying my job. The passion was missing,” he says.

wheat chana intercropping
Natural farming of wheat at Vidisha Natural Farms. Pic: Sankalp Sharma

He grows Sharbati, Khapli and Bansi wheat varieties on his Narmada Natural Farms in Vidisha through natural farming and gets Rs70 per kg for his Sharbati variety. Sankalp supplies wheat across India and shares natural farming techniques through his YouTube channel and webinars, which are always sold out within hours.

More here: How this engineer-MBA farmer earns Rs70 per kg for wheat grown through natural farming

6. Raman Salaria, Punjab

Raman quit his job at Delhi Metro in 2018 when he was transferred to Mumbai. He did not want to leave behind his aged parents in Punjab and they did not want to relocate to Mumbai. So he began organic farming of dragon fruit on his Unnat Natural Farm in Pathankot.

With revenues of Rs5 lakh per acre, he follows two models for selling the chemical-free fruits -- he supplies directly to customers in nearby cities who place the order through calls, WhatsApp or social media. He also sends them to Chandigarh, Noida and other cities via courier.

More here: Punjab’s engineer-farmer earns profit of Rs4 lakh per acre with organic farming of dragon fruit

7. Sumit Kinikar, Maharashtra

Sumit’s engineering job took him across India but the food he ate while being away from home severely affected his health. He quit his job. In 2018, he took up farming in his village in Sangli to grow and process organic food and promote good health for all.

Sugarcane is notorious for guzzling water and being unprofitable. But Sumit earns Rs3.6 lakh per acre with organic farming of sugarcane and multi-cropping of papaya and green chillies over some part of the land and turmeric, sugarcane and peanuts on another chunk. He prepares all the organic inputs on the farm and has a dedicated customer base.

Here's his story: How this Maharashtra engineer-farmer earns Rs 3.6 lakh per acre through organic sugarcane farming

(US Anu is a Madurai-based writer. She specialises in stories around human interest, environment and art and culture.)

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