When Vasanth Kumar and his brother Vijaya Kumar launched I Support Farming in 2016, their mission was to connect city dwellers with farmers by way of crowd-funding for agriculture.
“While I Support Farming functioned as a facilitator, the farming profit was shared with the investors. We had immense support for this initiative and it turned out to be a win-win for farmers and investors; a kind of partnership where farmers get financial support and the profit is shared,” says Vasanth Kumar, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture. He purchased 10 acres of agricultural land at Marakkanam in 1999.
“Back then, I did not have practical knowledge, and it was the farmers in the region where I started cultivating, who helped me understand the various issues pertaining to farming practices,” says Vasanth.
By interacting with them, he understood that one of the main challenges faced by small-scale farmers was insufficient working capital. Some times, they are forced to leave their lands fallow for want of just ₹5,000; they gradually give up agriculture, says Vasanth. Which was what I Support Farming wanted to address.
“A few years down the line, we were supporting 200 farmers spread across seven districts in the State, covering about 650 acres of agricultural land (of which 130 acres are organic). We now provide assistance in mechanised farming by way of lending them weeder and transplant machines periodically,” he explains.
Vasanth’s younger brother Vijaya Kumar, an engineer, has also joined the team and together the brothers are trying to identify issues pertaining to the farming community and find viable solutions. The team also has Agriculture graduates who visit the farms, and along with farmers, inspect crops and identify pests and issues that affect the crops and provide them solutions.
“As our next step, we are now looking at marketing of agricultural produce from these farmers, where again, the cost will be a win-win for farmers and consumers,” he says, adding that “the idea is to improve the income of the farmer who toils in his field. Take for example, a situation where the farmer sells his brinjal for ₹8 a kilo to the trader. By the time it reaches the consumer, its cost escalates to ₹34. Our mission is to reduce this supply chain.”
The farmers in Keerapalayam and Pattukottai regions had sought the help of Vasanth during the lockdown to sell their coconut harvest. “These farmers were worst hit during the Gaja cyclone a few years ago and after much hardship, they are now ready with their fresh harvest. It was when we were trying to find a way to help them, that we decided to launch an online portal with the concept of farm-to-table, where customers in Chennai can directly source products from farmers,” he explains. Vasanth says that he will be transporting 5,000 coconuts per week from Keerapalayam and offers them at ₹200 for 10, and they will be home delivered.
Currently, www.farmerstores.com has put on sale cashews, rice, cold-pressed oils and coconuts. Products are sold in bulk packages as it is easier for the farmers to pack them that way.
While cashews are sold in kilograms, rice is packed in 25 kilogram bags. Oils such as gingelly, coconut and groundnut, are sold in one-litre pet bottles.
For details, log on to www.farmerstores.com, or call 9840281787