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PROMOTING a green trend

Agriculture turnkey project company Raj Agrotech is the new kid  on the block in promoting polyhouse farming in Goa, writes SHOMA PATNAIK

Polyhouse farming is the latest in agriculture in India. Small farmers and youth in villages are ideal for it and the government is enthusiastically pushing them to take up polyhouse cultivation. In Goa, the technique is getting understood by agriculturists and they are sounding out suppliers on the new mode of farming.

Eager to grab a share of the budding polyhouse market is Raj Agrotech, a farming turnkey project company that recently registered itself with the agriculture department as provider of latest technology.

The company’s registered office is in Mumbai but it is Goan by birth, with owners being residents of Valpoi, asserts Pratap Gawade, partner. The 4-5 companies that are listed with the agriculture department for polyhouses and recommended to local farmers are from Pune or Jalgaon, and his is the only local name among them, he says.

Raj Agrotech, he continues, is a reputed name in agriculture. Established in 1999, it is family-run and owned in partnership with his other two brothers. Its annual sales are Rs 3.5 crore in 2014-15. In early years there was little market for agricultural projects in Goa, which is why the company is based in Mumbai, explains Gawade.

There are two offices in Mumbai (Vasai and Vikhroli), however, after foraying into Goa the company expanded rapidly and currently has three local offices in Sanquelim, Bicholim and Honda. Goa sales are in the region of Rs 85-90 lakh.

Younger generation Goan farmers are interested in growing exotic vegetables like broccoli and iceberg lettuce for clients, thanks to which business is picking up in the early months of setting up base in the state, says Gawde. Most of the customers are from South Goa in the farming heartland of the state.

Local farmers are attracted to polyhouse cultivation but they lack guidance, he says. Existing firms that set up the infrastructure do the construction and move on which is why farmers get stuck after starting. His company is totally involved with the cultivator at all stages. From constructing the polyhouse to preparing the bed and fertilizer or crop selection, there is continuous advisory with company experts working on site with the grower. The company even helps in preparing project reports and getting bank assistance.

It helps that the company is run by professionals. His brother BR Gawade is a MSc in agriculture from Konkan Krushi Vidyapet, Dhapoli while the other experts on board are equally qualified as agriculture scientists with education background in horticulture, forestry, etc. As for himself, his background is in marketing but from reputed management institute, Jamnalala Bajaj in Mumbai.

Suppliers of polyhouse technology in Goa are likely to increase in future, but Gawade is confident that his company will always have an edge over competition. The focus is into total turnkey work, viz seeing through a project from start to finish, and we are long term players, he says. It is reflected in the investment in offices and plans are to expand further and set up more offices in future.  Knowledge of local language and being a resident is also of great help as we understand Goan sentiments and way of working. Further, the family is inherently in love with farming and is interested in development of agriculture in the state.

Diminishing area under cultivation is a source of worry to our policy makers, but Gawade is optimistic of the future. Goa Horticulture Corporation’s strategy of sourcing vegetables from locals is leading people into cultivation and there are progressive farmers who are moving into growing vegetables and fruits. There is an emerging trend of youthful cultivators and they are growing produce for the state and also exporting. Polyhouse farming is best suited for local conditions as it protects farmers from pests and animal attacks, needs less of water and labour and higher in yield. The average productivity through polyhouses is eight-ten times higher than open air farming.

The company, he continues, promotes polyhouses using technology from Israel which is a frontrunner in the world. In future, Raj Agrotech’s sales, he continues, is expected to increase through a range of services in allied activities related to agriculture. The company’s product range is varied and includes insecticides, gobar gas construction, dairy equipments, solar fencing, water heaters, milking machines, etc. In solar section, the range is diverse and includes solar fencing, water heaters, lighting and related solar equipment.

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