Earthworms Give Techie A 20 Million-Rupee Turnover Annually
Raj Singh quit a high-end corporate job to set up a dairy in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, from which emerged his enterprise, Growing Tree Organic Limited, that makes and sells vermicompost.
Danish Iqbal 21 Sep 2023 11:48 AM GMT
A successful corporate job that paid him Rs 2.5 million (Rs 25 lakh) per annum, did not quite do it for engineering and management graduate Raj Singh.
“The corporate world wasn’t feeling right… Having studied business management, I wanted to own my own business and watch it grow,” the 38-year-old Raj Singh, who worked with a well-known private company in Delhi NCR, told Gaon Connection.
Singh is an agri-entrepreneur in Karhera village in Ghaziabad district, Uttar Pradesh, today having followed his dream of doing something himself.
He runs a ‘green’ company — Growing Tree Organic Limited — which makes and sells vermicompost and registers an annual turnover of Rs two crore (Rs 20 million).
“We produce almost 400 tonnes of vermicompost in a year. It is sold at a price of four rupees per kilogramme. Our buyers include modern farmers from Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir and western Uttar Pradesh. The bulk orders come from these state governments,” he told Gaon Connection proudly. (1 tonne = 1,000 Kgs)
The resident of Karhera village in Ghaziabad initially launched a dairy farming unit in 2017 on seven acres of leased land, which eventually developed into a vermicompost production business across seven acres of land
But the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 and the resulting lockdown didn’t go well with his business.
“I started off with 40 cows and their number had increased to 250. But we had to shut down operations during the lockdown,” said Singh. But there was a silver lining. “We sold the cow dung at throwaway prices and I realised that the same cow dung could be used to make vermicompost and turn into a business,” the agri-entrepreneur added.
“Today, the vermicompost production in my Growing Tree Organic Limited company has an annual turnover of Rs 2 crores. I make a profit of up to 80 lakh rupees. I also employ about 25 workers at my farm and provide them a monthly salary of Rs 11,000 each,” he said.
When Singh switched to production of vermicompost (compost made using earthworms), he began sourcing the cow dung from neighbouring gaushalas at Re 0.45 per kilogramme.
Making vermicompost was expensive. “Initially, my expense per acre of land was Rs 500,000. This included the land leased for Rs 60,000, sieving machines which cost Rs 20,000, water pumps and tools which cost Rs 50,000, and the high quality Eisenia fetida earthworms which were imported from Australia,” the agri-entrepreneur said. The earthworms alone cost Rs 60 per kilogram and they were procured from Sonipat in Haryana.
But as his business picked up pace and he started getting bulk orders for his vermicompost, things eased out.
There are five cycles of vermicompost production in a year at Growing Tree Organic Limited. Each cycle involves around 60 days of decomposition of the organic matter and earthworm-action. The end product is the vermicompost manure which is excellent for soil fertility.
Singh’s brothers Shew and Rajesh also work along with him. The farm which has a workforce of 25 labourers provides accommodation to these workers.
“My wife and I together earn about Rs 22,000 a month, which is a lot more than what we would elsewhere,” Naushad, a labourer at the farm, told Connection.
“Not only is there work for us most of the time, we are also provided accommodation. Such facilities are not available anywhere else. We get free electricity and water supply. Life is easier here as compared to working at a paddy or a wheat field as a khetihar mazdoor (an agricultural labourer),” he said.
Ushering in chemical-free farming
Singh believes that vermicompost can usher in a chemical-free revolution in Indian agriculture.
“Chemical fertilisers might increase the production and soil fertility more quickly, but their long term effects are destructive for both soil and human health,” he said. The rise in the incidence of cancer in the population can be attributed to reckless use of chemical fertilisers in our food systems, he said.
Singh is not alone in his beliefs. His remarks on the impact of fertilisers on human health were echoed by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah in January, 2022.
Shah had warned that the use of chemical fertilisers could increase cancer cases by 50 per cent in the next 15 years.
Virtually interacting with the farmers on Natural Farming from Gandhinagar, the Home Minister, said, “The poison has started reaching underground sources of water due to excess use of chemicals.”
Natural farming with the use of dung and urine of Indian cow breeds is the only way to restore the productivity of the soil, Amit Shah had said in a news bulletin published on the official website of All India Radio.