From ISRO Scientist to Organic Date Tycoon: Earning Rs. 6L Per Acre in Profits
Read about Diwakar Channappa, an ex-ISRO scientist, pioneered organic date farming in Karnataka, overcoming family resistance and changing the agrarian landscape.
Diwakar Channappa's transformation from a project scientist at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bengaluru to an innovative organic date farmer in Saganahalli village, Karnataka, is a tale of determination and environmental consciousness. Channappa, holding a Master’s degree in Social Work and previously a visiting faculty at Tumkur University, embarked on this path-changing journey in 2009.
The catalyst for his shift to agriculture was Masanobu Fukuoka's "One Straw Revolution," a book advocating the abandonment of chemical-intensive agriculture in favor of natural and organic methods. Inspired to reconnect with his roots, Channappa overcame significant family opposition, as his father, a farmer of ragi, corn, and toor dal, had never found agriculture profitable.
Initially adhering to conventional methods, Channappa soon shifted his focus to date farming, a decision influenced by a Krishi Mela in Bengaluru where he learned about date cultivation in Tamil Nadu. The climatic similarities between Tamil Nadu and his area in Karnataka provided the confidence to pursue this unconventional crop for the region.
Investing Rs 4.5 lakh in 150 Barhi date saplings in 2009, Channappa began his foray into organic farming on 2.5 acres of land. His efforts bore fruit in 2013, with the first harvest yielding 650 kg, sold at Rs 375 per kg. This initial success marked the start of a successful journey in organic date farming at his farm, Marali Mannige (meaning 'back to the soil' in Kannada).
By August 2023, Channappa's farm had grown to 102 plants, each producing around 45 to 50 kg of organic Barhi dates. The season's yield was 4.2 tonnes, sold at Rs 310 per kg at the farm and Rs 350 per kg for home deliveries in Bengaluru. An acre with 60 plants could yield 2700 kg, translating to a revenue of Rs 8,10,000 and a net profit of approximately Rs 6 lakh after deductions.
Significantly, Channappa's farm hosts a harvest festival twice annually, attracting numerous visitors and fostering a direct connection between consumers and organic farming. This approach has been pivotal to his success, along with his commitment to organic practices and direct sales.
In his organic farming venture, Channappa prepares all inputs like panchagavya and jeevamrit using natural ingredients, promoting a sustainable farming model. Besides dates, he also cultivates sugarcane, ragi, toor dal, millets, and indigenous paddy varieties, demonstrating a diverse and holistic approach to agriculture.
Channappa's commitment extends beyond farming to education. He collaborates with Udhbhavaha, an alternative school in Bengaluru, inviting students to his farm to experience organic farming, thus nurturing a new generation's connection to the soil and sustainable agriculture.