The chirping of birds and tracts of agricultural land make for a pretty sight in Laxmapur village which is 45 km away from the hustle-bustle of Hyderabad. Appala Venkatesh gently sits on the grass with his wife. The 45-year-old, who has a one-acre plot, has been a farmer for as long as he can remember. Of the acre that he owns, one half went into paddy cultivation — a big crop in this part of the country — and the other in the cultivation of vegetables such as tomato and bhindi (okra).
Life had been a little harsh on Venkatesh. Pests coupled with a serious paucity of water were proving to be a nightmare. His total income from dairy and agriculture fetched him around Rs.85,000 each year. Of this, Rs.35,000 agri income was under threat. “The ground water was drying up and I did not know what to do,” he says.
“This February, however, things changed for the better,” says Venkatesh, pointing to the greenhouse. The large structure, resembling a tent, sits on 200 sq mt (or about 2,150 sq ft) of land and is covered from all sides to prevent pests and protect crops from excessive heat or unseasonal rainfall.
“We started cultivating cucumbers in mid-February and that lasted till May. We will now cultivate capsicum,” says Venkatesh with a smile. Over a three-month period, there was as much as 1,700 kg of the crop that came his way. That translated to an income of about Rs.6,000 each month after meeting all expenses.
He has managed to do all this with the help of Kheyti, a startup offering low-cost farming solutions to help farmers increase their yield and predictability of their produce. Started by Kaushik K, Sathya Raghu, Saumya and Ayush Sharma — all hailing from diverse backgrounds, Kheyti has installed 50 greenhouse-in-a-box structures in Laxmapur and its adjoining villages. “We will have a total of 150 structures by the end of this year and 500 by the end of the next,” says an ambitious Kaushik.
To be fair, the concept of a greenhouse is not new and has been around for decades in large parts of the world. For the people at Kheyti, a name derived from the Hindi word for farming, the task was to work around ke