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Posted at: Sep 17, 2018, 1:49 AM; last updated: Sep 17, 2018, 1:49 AM (IST)

Indian roots of Italian chillies

Vijay C Roy

Lush green Italian chilli farms have roots in Haryana, thanks to Harbir Singh, an enterprising farmer of Dadlu village in Kurukshetra.  He has been exporting chilli seedlings to Italy for the past three years. So far, he has exported about 1 lakh seedlings.

Holder of a master's degree in political science from Kurukshetra University, Singh chose farming over a nine-to-five job. Like others, he started his farming career with wheat, paddy and vegetables. He, however, wanted to do something different that would be exciting besides more remunerative than the traditional farming.

"The earning from traditional agriculture was diminishing, so I was compelled to diversify. Finally in 2005, I took a plunge into raising a nursery for vegetable farming," says Singh.

Initially, he began with a nursery on a small land spread over around 2 kanals (roughly 1,000 square yards). Despite having burnt fingers after incurring huge losses in the first two years, he did not give up. He experimented with several vegetables including green chilli, tomato, capsicum, brinjal, onion and cauliflower of different hybrids and varieties. 

Now his vegetable nursery is spread over 15 acres. Out of the total 14 acres are open while one acre is under the polyhouse. Today, on an average, he raises around 10 crore seedlings per annum.

What made Singh famous was the uniqueness of his crops. His plants that were first popular only in Haryana, soon became a favourite of people across the country and abroad.

He developed a low-cost vegetable nursery at his farm and helped other farmers in diversifying from traditional crops to remunerative vegetable farming. He made refinement in technologies and management practices for cultivation at the micro level.

"We have evolved innovative ways of nursery media preparation with available local material," he says. The nursery media preparation developed by him were biogas slurry, river bed sand containing silica and burnt rice husk ash for growing vegetables. Later, he also added drip irrigation and micro sprinklers.

He has established a laboratory for experiments and after trials the plants are recommended for cultivating vegetable nursery. Currently, he is meeting the seedling requirements of over 7,000 farmers from neighbouring states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Bihar.

A large number of farmers are associated with him and getting the nursery on advance booking. His skills in diversification and innovative ways of cultivation have earned him several awards and recognitions from government and private agencies. In 2015, he was awarded as best horticulturist of Haryana. Due to his achievements in farming sector, Singh was awarded the NG Ranga National Farmer Award by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in 2017. He also got Haryana Nursery Ratan award in the third Haryana Agri Summit, 2018.

"Each and every farmer wants to earn profit, but to earn profit we have to walk hand in hand with technological advancements in agriculture", says Singh.

He has specially brought papaya seeds from Taiwan and America for his nursery. 

Startups in India

Application for startups 16,324 
Officially recognised 11,129
Mentored for incubation 550

Government funding

Corpus Rs 10,000 cr
To be released by 2025
Startups received funds 142
Total funds received Rs 602.60 cr

Incubators: Existing and proposed*

Indian School of Business Punjab
National Institute of Technology Kurukshetra 
Entrepreneurship Development Institute J&K
JCBL Limited Chandigarh

*Under the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM)

Technology Business Incubators (TBIs)

IIT Mandi Himachal Pradesh
IISER Mohali Punjab
NIT Jalandar Punjab

(Source: Lok Sabha, Q&A, July 23, 2018)

Agri startup funding 

$3.23 bn was invested in agricultural sector worldwide of which, 53 Indian agritech startups raised $313 mn 
AgFunder's AgTech Investing Report

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