How Vibez Estates, an agro realty company enables investments in farmlands that are sustainable and financially viable
Owning a farm nestled amidst the hills. An eco-friendly farmhouse under lush green canopies in the woods. Well, these are what dreams and bucket lists are made of. And, for most, that’s where it remains. The key reasons for this are the high cost of maintaining an agricultural property and also the fact that not everyone understands or has the skill sets to maintain a farm.
But, if maintained well, investing in farmland becomes an asset whose valuations tend to grow year on year. And, when the land is used to grow and market organic fruits, vegetables or commercial plantations, it can supplement income too. And, this is what agro realty sets out to achieve. An upcoming sector, agro realty refers to the clearly demarcated land properties developed from large tracts of land that enable individuals — who invest in them — to earn returns with minimal efforts. The agro realty market is now beginning to witness an acceleration in interest and investments, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The working of an agro realty farm
The farms maintained and promoted by agro realty company Vibez Estates, for instance, are located in places that are expected to see at least 30 percent appreciation over a span of years. Half of the farm has long-term yielding trees which promise a good revenue. And, the rest of the farmland consists of fruit crops that provide annual revenue. About 5,000 sq ft of the property is demarcated for the customer to build a farmhouse. But, what probably steals the cake is the fact that it also provides maintenance services - which means the customer need not invest in fixed assets like labour quarters, godowns, borewells, security, etc. The company has farm supervisors for each project who use a mobile ERP app to monitor daily activity at the farm. This also enables the customer to get updates on their app at the click of a button. At least 50 percent of labourers who work on the farm are inhouse labourers of Vibez Estates.
The founder, Ashwin Kumar, says, “We bring to table the concept, ‘the ownership is yours and workmanship is ours’.” Interestingly, the whole concept and offering evolved when years ago he wanted to go back to his agricultural roots after working in the financial services industry. It was the year 2009 and Ashwin along with his friend wanted to invest in a coffee estate. “We realised that maintenance was the key deterrent. Soon enough, we realised we weren’t alone. But, there were no players in the market who were offering a solution,” he recalls.
That’s when Vibez Estates took shape. “We started by purchasing a 13-acre coffee estate in Chikmagalur and bifurcating this into one, two, and three acres of land. We also offered maintenance services. So once the land was registered under the customer’s name, we then signed an agreement for maintenance. This would involve right from ensuring security of the land, taking care of liabilities on the farm, managing the plantation of the commercial trees, planning and harvesting of fruits. The revenue from agriculture was to be shared between the company and the customer,” he shares.
Focus on sustainability and rural development
As the company and the concept was new, the biggest hurdle was in building trust. “What will happen if the company closes? Who will maintain the farm? - these were the questions on most prospective customers’ minds. But seven customers invested in the project in a span of three months. The success of the project saw Vibez Estates getting customer references. “We started to cater to customers who were keen to invest in agricultural land in the Western Ghats,” shares the founder. Today, Vibez Estates has developed and promoted over 480 acres of coffee estates and 300+ farm house plots primarily in Karnataka’s Chikmagalur district.
But, the passing of the Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 2020 allowed non-agriculturists to buy agricultural land in the state. This further saw a spike in interest. There were a lot of urban professionals wanting to invest in agricultural land closer home. That saw us starting projects covering 130+ acres of agricultural land in the periphery of Bengaluru like Chikkaballapur, Doddaballapur and Channapatna,” says Ashwin.
“The properties are just about an hour’s drive away from Bengaluru International Airport. We are in the process of planting over 40,000+ teak plants and around 30,000 fruit plants in the land which has already been bought by our customers,” explains Ashwin. The farm houses constructed under the project will implement water with rain water harvesting, which will eliminate the need to have any external water connections or borewell supply. The farm houses will run on solar power, thus making them sustainable in every way.
While planting long-yielding trees and fruit crops makes for good investments, the initiative at the core has been driven by Vibez Estates’ focus on sustainability. “The planting of thousands of trees has been facilitated in every project we have undertaken. In addition, the farm houses that we have constructed are all eco-friendly,” says Ashwin. The company also focuses on enabling rural employment generation. Vibez Estates bagged numerous awards such as Indira Priyadarshini National Award in 2013 for promoting rural entrepreneurship, Business Excellence Award in 2015 for customer support in agriculture and farming from Karnataka Small and Medium Business Owners Association (KSMBOA), the Best Eco Homes Project in 2018 from Quikr Homes and Realty, Time Business Award 2020 for the Best Farmland Project, to list a few.
Ashwin says in addition to the industry recognition, the feedback from customers has been always encouraging. “We receive excellent support from our existing customers. In fact, customer referrals often constitute about 70 percent of people who invest in our new farmland projects,” he says. Vibez Estates is now working on launching its new project spread over 110 acres of land. “We are implementing the latest technology and automation in the project and it is being designed to generate viable short-term and long-term revenue. Implementing technology in farming reduces the maintenance costs and also enhances the crop revenue. In addition, we also plan to go big on organic farming and agroforestry,” shares Ashwin.