Couple quit IT jobs, create a farm of agricultural innovations

MANGALURU: Arnaud Quere and Stephane Sanner from France are patiently listening to an Indian couple Varanashi Krishna Moorthy and Ashwini K Moorthy as they explain the concept of organic and integrated farming. For past two decades, Varanashi Farms (VF) in Adyanadka village in Bantwal taluk, situated 50 km away from Mangaluru, has been attracting Indians and foreigners alike. The farm is owned and managed by the Moorthy couple who had once left their lucrative IT jobs to create wonders on farmlands.

“Currently, four foreign nationals are staying here. Two of them are from France. While Quere recently completed his masters in Finance, Sanner owns a hotel in south of France. They are here to acquaint themselves with the nitty-gritty of organic farming,” says Moorthy.

“Over 3,000 people visit our farm annually to know how agriculture practices can be improved by recycling agro-wastes, using bio-control agents, water harvesting and silviculture,” adds Ashwini.

What makes Varanashi Farms, which is a certified organic farm since 1993, a unique model farm? The 50-acre farm holds within it successful outcomes of decades-long research into organic farming, water harvesting, silviculture and other related fields. In the nineties, chemicals were the key to increase the production. However, they had an adverse effect on the land. Increased pests and diseases did more harm than good.

“In 1991, we shifted to organic farming and pioneered the integrated farming concept with solid and water conservation structures. An accidental discovery of bio-organic manure with coir-pith as base solved the problem of lack of nutrients and micro nutrients. That helped us realise the immense benefits of organic farming,” recalls Krishna Moorthy, a third generation farmer.

At present, 2,000 tonnes of compost are produced annually with the help of indigenous methods. They are then sold to farming community and VF has an annual turnover of `1.5 crore. Several innovations in agri-sector have also taken place at Varanashi Research Foundation (VRF)’s laboratory. Based on their learnings and experience, the couple now holds regular awareness programmes to motivate farmers to implement the best farming practices and technologies. “Even fecal matter can be used as manure for crops,” says Ashwini.

Under the aegis of Varanashi Organic Farmers’ Society, the couple are assisting 90 farmers in availing organic certification and marketing organic produce. “We run plant nurseries to sell high variety of disease-resisting saplings to farmers,’’ informs Krishna Moorthy, a recipient of ‘Krishi Panditha Award’. VRF also got A P J Abdul Kalam Environmental Award in 2006.

Israeli innovations on Indian farmlands

Krishna Moorthy and Ashwini have together visited 14 foreign countries. Wherever they go, they study the agricultural practices and come back to India wiser. During one such tour, they witnessed green revolution in the deserts of Israel. They visited several farms and were highly impressed by the agriculture research university and the techniques used by farmers there. At Sea of Galilee, a freshwater lake in Israel, sensors in soil controlled the flow of water from drip irrigation system.

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