Five years ago, Payyannur, Kerala, native Dananjayan A V, left his cable operator job to look after his family. With his wife employed and two kids starting school, he found a lot of free time each day. Terrace farming was thus taken up as a hobby.
Months passed and he grew more interested in farming. He joined a Facebook community called Krishithottam Group (KTG) from which scientific and organic farming ideas were acquired.
“I began with vegetable farming in a few grow bags following traditional methods. Now there are 250 bags in which I grow vegetables like okra, brinjal, tomato, chilli, and bitter gourd as well as seasonal greens like lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and capsicum,” says the 48-year-old.
Dananjayan uses the drip irrigation method on his 1000-sq-ft terrace which saves water and time. It requires refilling once a week and is thus helpful if the family is not around for a week or two to look after the crops. Incorporating such scientific methods and yielding a good harvest made him the recipient of the Best Terrace Farmer award of the Kerala government in 2019.
The drip irrigation system employed by Dananjayan is different from the usual ones. It is portable and can be installed within five minutes. The system was developed by Biju Jalal, an innovator from Kollam. The system which consists of pipes and cloth strings is placed at the base and wide trays are set above. Grow bags or pots with plants are positioned upon them. The trays can hold up to 100 kg weight.
“There is a misconception that terrace farming will ruin the strength of a building,” he says, adding, “With technical knowledge, there is no danger at all. The grow bags are to be placed at a small height to avoid direct contact with water on the terrace. Or you can use waterproof paint on the terrace so that no damage occurs.”
The farmer also opines that if operated carefully, a grow bag can be used for up to three years.
Organic manure on a commercial basis
Dananjayan uses kitchen waste to make his organic manure at home which is an excellent source of nutrients for plants. It was later that he was introduced to composting and set up two dabbas to prepare them. Other than kitchen waste, dry leaves, twigs and poultry waste was added to it which made the process faster.
“There was manure leftover even after using it for my crops. So, I decided to level it up for sale. One kilogram of this manure is now sold for Rs 30. At present only 4 kg packets are available. All sales happen via Facebook and I get great feedback from farmers,” he says.
In addition to the manure business, the farmer also sells organic pest control sprays, seeds and saplings of crops. The highlight of all these products is that they are cheaper than the ones available at stores and gardens.
Even though Dananjayan has a piece of land near his house, he mostly concentrates on terrace farming. He cultivates red lady papaya in the land which is now in the growing stage. “I manage the whole area and process alone. Thus, there are many limitations,” he shares.
The farmer’s family is also interested in the cultivation and backs him with full support. “If you are planning to do terrace farming make sure to use organic fertilisers. That way we can harvest healthy produce that is also tasty,” he suggests.
If you are interested in purchasing products from this farmer, contact him on Facebook.
Edited by Yoshita Rao