When we think of Rajasthan, the first picture that comes in our mind is expansive desert dominating the scenery, magnanimous palaces and forts, and scorching sun. But what if we say that an engineer grew a winter fruit, typically grown in the hilly areas, in the hottest region of the country?
Deepak Nayak, a freelance web designer, started missing the old days in his ancestral farm in Biratiya Kalan village in Rajasthan. Back then, the farmers would grow the same crops and used age-old methodologies even if they weren’t profitable. Deepak decided to change the situation and by taking matters in his own hands. He did the unbelievable by opting to farm strawberries in the state.
Web designer takes a U-turn
Deepak didn’t even know the basics of farming. “I was a web designer and earned pretty well. But I felt detached from my work and wanted to make use of my ancestral field. People are often discouraged when it comes to strawberry farming and I want to prove that it is not impossible,” says Deepak in an interview with KenFolios.
He would often visit the state of Maharashtra where he saw strawberry farming. Since the weather conditions in Maharashtra and Rajasthan were considerably similar, Deepak decided to farm strawberries on his barren farmland. After returning to his hometown, he decided to take the help of the local farmers but they did not have any idea about strawberries and did not want to experiment with any other crop in order to bear loss.
Deepak then started taking help from YouTube videos and researching on strawberry farming. He consulted agronomists and started learning everything about the crop. He then shifted to Biratiya Kalan village and started farming on his ancestral land.
The farming process
Unsure about the fertility of his land, Deepak sought to take the help of soil testing department. He got the soil tested for a nominal amount of Rs 700. According to Deepak, the pH level of the soil should be up to 7 and the water’s electrical conductivity should be up to 0.7 to grow strawberries. The temperature should be anywhere between 10 to 30 degree celsius.
After going through all the procedures, he started tilting the land and prepared it for cultivation. Instead of using the artificial fertilizers, Deepak used the organic ones made from cow dung that he had sourced from the villagers. Once the fertiliser was mixed, the land was tilted again and raised beds of about 2×180 ft for plantation.
Once the beds were ready, a calculative amount of DAP fertiliser was spread over them. The compost manure was put on these beds on an average of 50 kg per bed. He chose drip irrigation system and used one of the latest method for farming that is mulching.
Deepak bought the strawberry plants from Pune at the cost of Rs 9.50 per plant. Initially, he bought 15,000 plants and planted them in one acre land. He tells that one can plant up to 24,000 plants in one acre. The distance between two rows made for plantation should be 10-12 inches. However, he had planted the plants at a distance of about 12-14 inches.
“Strawberry plants are prone to fungus, and one has to keep spraying fungicide. It is important to use organic fungicides and maintain the temperature by giving regular showers by using spray machines, and removing the dead leaves time-to-time,” says Deepak.
The fruit of hard work
After the initial investment of Rs 4 lakh, Deepak started planting strawberries last year in october and got the fruits by december. He started selling the fruits in Beawar, Ajmer, and other places in Rajasthan. Today, Deepak cultivates over five tonnes of strawberries in his one-acre farm.
Initially, Deepak had to face a lot of criticism from other people. People would mock at him saying “If your plants are transported in an AC vehicle then how will they grow in this hot weather?” But Deepak had confidence in his research and was determined to do his work.
Today, there’s an ever rising demand for his strawberries in the nearby areas like Ajmer and Bilawar. He sells his strawberries at Rs 200 per kg in the markets directly to the consumers.
Deepak gave a new dimension to farming. He believes that everyone faces issues in business or jobs. There are ups and downs in every field but running away can never be a solution.
This is our land, our soil and we must never give up on it. If we wish our future generations to lead a pollution free and healthy life then getting back to farming is the only and best way to ensure this.
The challenges that Deepak faced and efforts he put into doing something different clearly states that there is a solution for everything. Our farmers are still using age-old techniques for agriculture and disappointed by the results they take these drastic steps such as suicides. We need to train them in the best possible way and work for them because of their work we get the food on the platter.
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