These five women-led farming initiatives are making an impact in India’s agriculture industry
Gitanjali Rajamani, Gurdev Kaur Deol, Saumya, Sakina Rajkotwala, and Kavya Chandra
From transforming the lives of farmers and focusing on chemical-free produce, to bringing city-dwellers closer to nature and giving them a hands-on agricultural experience, here are five women-led farming initiatives that are reaching new and innovative heights.
Gitanjali Raman, Co-Founder, Farmizen
Hailing from a family of farmers in Kerala, Gitanjali Rajamani quit her corporate job of seven years to go back to her roots. In 2017, she started Farmizen, a startup that allows you to rent a community farmland outside the city to grow your own produce, safely and organically. And when you're caught up in the city life, on-site farmers will take care of your plants.
Gitanjali Rajamani started Farmizen with two goals in mind. One was to give city-dwellers fresh, chemical-free produce through the farming experience. The other was to help improve the livelihoods of farmers.
Gitanjali says, "Farmers get a fixed and predictable income which is almost three times the income that they would get via conventional farming."
Farmizen is currently present in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Surat, with about 1,500 subscribers and 24 farms across the three cities, and around 40 acres of land under cultivation. They want to expand to 100,000 families and generate over Rs 300 crore in recurring revenue in two years.
Gurdev Kaur Deol, Founder, GSHGFPO
A resident of Ludhiana, Gurdev Kaur Deol quit her government job to start farming, and work for the empowerment of women. In 2008, with the view to promote organic farming and other activities, she started the Global Self Help Group, which was formally registered as an organisation in March 2015.
To make use of the 2.5 acres of land she owned in her village, Gurdev Kaur Deol decided to undergo two months of training at Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), to learn about growing vegetables, fruits, and grains. She also received training on how to produce manure.
Now with hundreds of women employed, GSHGFPO cultivates a variety of vegetables, makes sauces and juices from the produce, and also does bee-keeping, with over 450 boxes for the same. Additionally, it purchases organic pulses and spices from other farmers which it packages and sells.
Saumya, Co-Founder, Kheyti (Image credit: Kellog, Northwestern)
Co-founded by Saumya, Kheyti has developed and introduced 'Greenhouse-in-a-Box' (GIB), a low-cost, modular greenhouse integrated with end-to-end support, to battle income variability. Kheyti enables a community of farmers who are independent yet interdependent, by giving each on their own mini-greenhouse on their land.
Kheyti trains, advises and helps farmers with their marketing. To financially empower them, the organisation has partnered with firms such as Big Basket, Northwestern Institute for Sustainability and Energy, T-Hub, AgriPlast, AIPICRISAT- Agribusiness and Innovation Platform, and Acumen Funderscircle.
Kheyti currently has 50 farmers enrolled in its programme, and is also building its proof-of concept with 300 farmers near Telangana.
Sakina Rajkotwala, Co-Founder, Herbivore Farm (Image credit: The Logical Indian)
Co-founded by Sakina Rajkotwala, Herbivore Farms is Mumbai’s first hyperlocal, hydroponic farm that grows nutritious, premium quality, pesticide-free greens like Swiss chard, kale, rocket, and lettuce.
Herbivore Farm is spread over 1,000 sq ft, and houses over 2,500 kinds of plants in a temperature-controlled indoor setting. The environmental benefits of the way Herbivore Farm operates include using up to 80 percent less water for growth through a "recirculating irrigation system", and growing the plants in a vertical format, which allows it to grow five times more than it would have been able to otherwise.
Today, the farm grows 2,500 plants, and sells fresh, organic vegetables to customers across Mumbai.
Kavya Chandra, Founder, A Green Venture
Founded by Kavya Chandra, A Green Venture is a Bengaluru-based 'eco-enterprise' that curates experiences to connect people with natural, chemical-free food at farms through workshops, camps and trips for both children and adults.
Kavya believes, “supporting small groups, collectives or a system, which gives us a window to learn how organic farming is practised, will allow buyers to make more informed choices about their fruits and veggies”.