Vijay Yelmalle grew up on a farm till the age of eight. After that, his parents moved to Mumbai so that he could get a better education and do more than farming. Well, Vijay did become successful – he got educated as desired and got a job in Singapore. Yet, the love for farming never left him. After 14 years of working in one of the best countries on the world, he quit it all to once again come back to his first love – farming.
But this time around, he had gathered enough knowledge to do things differently. He got into hi-tech alternative farming techniques like aquaponics and hydroponics. His alternative farming journey began with a small 100 sq ft unit on his terrace in Navi Mumbai. Its success led him to purchase a 15-acre land in Raigad. He moved on to establish the Center for Research in Alternative Farming Technologies (CRAFT) which trained over 2,000 aspiring urban farmers in hydroponics and aquaponics.
Vijay’s 150 sq ft hydroponic unit on his terrace in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, produces about 1.2 tons of leafy greens in a year. He runs this space independently and also uses it as a training space for farmers and students. While it is still at an early stage on the supply chain, the produce is sold in local shops or distributed free of cost to relatives and neighbours.
He used his land in Raigad to set up two low-cost aquaponic units of 300 sq m. Costing Rs 8 lakh for each unit, these aquaponics farms produce a total of four tonnes of fish and ten tonnes of pesticide-free leafy vegetables per year.
Currently, he trains 30 people each month, charging between Rs 3,000-5,500. This amounts to nearly Rs 15-20 lakh annually! Who said there is no money in farming!