Is Organic Farming A Profitable Business?
- Organic farming is a unique technique to cultivate plants & rear livestock in a completely natural fashion, – using natural ingredients free of any synthetic inputs in the process.
- Yields healthier produce compared to mass production using artificial additives & users claim that organic food even tastes better due to the use of bio-based materials.
- Avoidance of synthetic substances helps maintain soil fertility & preserve the delicate ecological balance of the grassland ecosystems, minimizing pollution.
- But is organic farming a valuable business proposition in a country like India? 5. Research says that organic farming is still in its nascent stage in India.
- There are a few niche startups that deal in 100% organic produce & there is significant demand in the Indian market.
- As per data received from the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, only 2.78 million hectares are being used for organic farming which is only 2% of the total 140.1 million hectares of farmland available, as of March 2020.
- With the Indian population growing in purchase power & health consciousness, the time is just right to enter the Indian market.
- The top 3 states where there are many subscribers to organic farming are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra.
- Madhya Pradesh tops this list with 0.76 million hectares of cultivable farmland under organic cultivation & together they account for 80% of the area under organic cultivation.
- But still, it accounts for only 4.9, 2.0 & 1.6% of the net sown area.
- Only state to become completely organic is Sikkim. Meghalaya, Mizoram, Uttarakhand, Goa, and Sikkim have 10% or more space under organic cultivation.
- India stands at 9th position in certified agricultural land with 1.94-million-hectare (2018-19) based on international research data collected by Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FIBL) & International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) Statistics 2020.
Read Pritish Kumar Halder’s article in which he discussed Organic Farming as a business.
There are multiple schemes and policies launched by the Government of India to incentivize organic farming.
Some of them are:
- Encourage recycling of crop residues for incorporation into soil & use as manure
- Assist in promoting organic farming with welfare schemes like:
- Param paragat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)
- Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER)
- Capital Investment Subsidy Scheme (CISS) under Soil Health Management Scheme
- National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP)
- National Food Security Mission (NFSM)
For starting any new business, you need loans. In many industries securing a loan becomes a difficulty. But not in organic farming. Nationalized Banks provide loans to cover the initial setup costs – State Bank of India provides loans to farmers with a minimum of 5 acres of land or who have a certification in organic farming who can easily avail of the loan.
Some typical features of these loans are:
- Minimum 3-year term.
- 1 Lakh loan can be sanctioned with a minimum of 5 acres of land. Out of this, 40% is for organic inputs & the rest for training.
- A maximum 20% subsidy can be availed by the farmer.
- The loan can be repaid in 9 years with a maximum 3-year extension period.
The Central Government of India provides subsidies that reduce the burden of loans. This makes financial organic farming an attractive and hassle-free proposition.
How To Start?
- Extensive is needed before you can start your farm.
- This is to ensure that once your farm is up & running, you can gather knowledge about potential pitfalls & systemic problems.
- You can also understand the resources needed & their expected cost in your area.
- You can visit other organic farming facilities, and speak with entrepreneurs who have valuable experience in this area.
- By learning from their experiences, you can make better decisions as to the priority of the investments you will be making.
Decide Your Crop
Know about the weather in your area & which crops can thrive in those climatic conditions are essential to select the right product. Multiple extrinsic factors need to be considered before making decision.
- Soil – pH, alkalinity, water retention, nutritional & porosity levels decide the health & quality of the crop
- Demand in the local market
- Water Availability & composition
- Organic inputs needed & their cost & availability
- Equipment needed & their availability
Decide Your Farming Method
In India, there are diverse sets of practices that are used in organic farming. You need to select the right process based on your crop, climate & location for the optimum output. Some of the well-known methods are:
A tried & tested method from the Vedic era, this method encompasses chanting of ancient holy Sanskrit scriptures at auspicious moments in front of the “home” – sacred fire. The ash from this fire is then sprinkled on composts, farms, and crops to revitalize them for maximum output.
Poly-cropping for crop diversity
Multi-crop or concurrent cultivation is the process to plant several crops to better manage the soil’s health & natural nutrient fixation cycle. Monoculture is a lousy practice & deteriorates the health of the fertile grounds. Hence, crop rotation is practiced, which involves the cultivation of different types of crops in a periodic pattern. E.g., legumes & cereal.
Another widespread practice is intercropping. It involves plant crops between the rows of primary produce – depending upon the space available between the rows. This optimizes the farm’s asset utilization factor as no part of the land is left unused & specific symbiotic relationships help boost outputs of both variants.
Aerobic & anaerobic naturally occur microbes used for soil health improvement, natural pest control & compost preparation at the farm. They help decompose organic manure & return the nutrients into the soil, into the plant roots. These microbes are photosynthetic & lactic acid bacteria, filamentous & ray fungi & yeasts.
Based on the astronomical calendar, unique solutions are sprinkled on the farm waste & manure dumps. It needs proper certification & training, but once done, the product can be marketed using the “Demeter” sign – & fetches higher value in the markets. This is done mainly to enhance the quality of produce by developing nutrient-rich composts, pest control & improved soil health.
This involves using earthworms to ingest, decompose & disintegrate organic farm wastes & change them into good-quality manure. This compost is then sieved to convert them into finer bits that can readily mix with the soil. Vermicomposting deters pests, insects, and diseases that affect farm produce.
Finalize Your Business Plan
- Secure loans for your startup, get the right people on board, and check if there is any technology requirement for future needs, all are fundamental strategic questions that you need to ask yourselves.
- Get the business plan right in the first go is an improbability, there will always be something that you will need to adapt accordingly.
- Do not waste time to perfect the strategy – start to act on what you know & believe.
- The change will be needed along the way – you must ensure that then, your team is capable enough to handle it.
- The future of Organic Farms in India is bright and full of hope.
- With government subsidies, easy loans & financing, it is the right opportunity to start your very own farm business.
- Now that you know the process it’s time to jump into action & make your dream a reality.
The 1960s green revolution was a boon to farmers as they started using high-yielding variety seeds (HYV). The productivity of wheat and rice increased drastically and farmers were able to get good prices for their commodities. After a very long time, India started a journey from being a food surplus nation to a food-deficit nation.
Our imports of cereals decreased and eventually, India started exporting them. This was a major revolution in the field of Agriculture in India. However, any technology with its advantages also brings some unwanted disadvantages. The high-yielding varieties demanded a heavy dosage of chemical fertilizers and insecticides.
Lure into producing more farm produce, farmers start to apply an overdosage of fertilizers and insecticides. This leads to nasty consequences. The heavy usage of such chemical inputs can degrade the soil fertility up to the extent that some of the farmland get barren. Even the groundwater is contaminated by harmful chemicals which causes serious diseases to the people who consume groundwater. For more information please visit Pritish Kumar Halder
Now it has become a common practice to spray chemicals on fruits and vegetables and promote unnatural growth by injecting artificial chemicals. However, people have slowly started to understand the ill effects of such practices on human health.