It all began with a business plan for a course and gradually changed the lives of many in the city. Kern Agrawal, Kenneth Lowe, Karan Maheshwary, Ashwin Kurisinkal and Mathews Cherickal, a group of Loyola College management graduates, call themselves ‘The Urban Farmers’. “With agricultural land in Chennai disappearing at a fast rate, a lot of unused terrace space, and farmers’ general produce having to travel almost 100 kilometres to reach people, we thought of urban farming as a way to bring food within a five-kilometre radius,” says Kern Agrawal, one of the founders who has been responsible for the growth of the project. How did they manage to bring a college project to life, you ask? Kern answers, “Initially, none of us were really interested in the concept of urban and terrace farming but as the project went on, we realised we wanted to do something about it. We spent one year after we graduated researching farms in Tamil Nadu and across the country. Then, we set up our first model farm on a 5,000 sq ft. terrace of a building in Loyola. That’s when we got to test our theory and how it really is in practice. That’s when we decided to help individuals set up such farms and the first ones to try it were Loyola’s faculty and students.”
The organisation uses the method of biodynamic farming to yield healthy produce that doesn’t need pesticides and hence is healthier. “Even though that makes the alternative of urban farming more expensive economically than stepping out and going grocery shopping, knowing that the greens have grown under your care is another feeling altogether.”
He also adds, “Lots of people have told us that the terrace farm cools down the house underneath by at least two to three degrees which is much needed in Chennai. The sun being in the city all throughout the year also helps in growing a wide variety of vegetables and greens. All a beginner needs to do is fix any leakage problems their roof may have and we can then help them set up their very own terrace farm.”
The Urban Farmers seems to be going many more places in the near future. Kern tells us, “We plan to have larger scale farms in the outskirts of Chennai from where we’ll be able to provide our database of customers, fresh produce.” A green revolution for the city seems to be very near.
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