By Suchita S.

Think Organic. The first couple of words that’ll come to your mind are healthy, fresh, fancy and premium. There’s this sense of exclusivity associated with Organic food. Everyone knows it’s better, but no one really knows why. Changing the perception of organic food, and bringing it to your doorsteps at affordable rates in Delhi {since March 2012}, is Ashmeet Kapoor’s venture- I Say Organic. I chatted with him to find out more about organic farming and his foray into a sector which might be the backbone of our economy, but is seldomly explored.

Suchita | What is Organic farming?

Ashmeet | Very simply, organic farming is farming without the use of pesticides and chemicals. When the government started the Green Revolution, there was a lot of focus on increasing productivity and overall yield through use of pesticides and chemicals. Everyone wants their pie of the profit, right? The problem arose when farmers began using these in startling quantities, adversely affecting the fertility of the soil and quality of the produce, and driving up the cost of farming {chemicals aren’t cheap!}. This is why, today, we hear of severe problems not only in farming, but also about the quality of the fruits and vegetables you pick up from the nearby sabzi-waala, or anywhere else. Farmers, now, are keen on going back to their roots of natural farming. Also, people are becoming more aware and conscious of the food they’re consuming. And that’s why organic farming is picking up in our country.

Suchita | How do we know if a vegetable or fruit is organically produced?

Ashmeet | By simply looking at a vegetable or fruit, it’s hard to tell if it’s organic. So it always helps to have a vendor you trust and who’s produce has been certified by regulatory agencies. For example there’s APEDA in India, which sets the norms & standards for organic produce in India. For ‘I Say Organic’,we’re more than happy to provide a copy of the certificate which validates our produce. Infact, we encourage people to visit our farms so they have a better understanding of organic farming!

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Suchita | Typically, why is organic produce more expensive than regular sabzi-waala produce? And how do you ensure that your price is reasonable?

Ashmeet | Unlike farming that’s supplemented with pesticides and chemicals, organic farming is very labour intensive- farmers need to work harder in their fields to get a good yield. Considering the market is limited and the costs of storing and transportation are significant, the cost implication to the farmer and the supplier is really high. There are 4-6 middlemen between the customer and the farmer, and each one keeps a margin to run his business. ‘I Say Organic’ is cost effective because firstly, we supply larger quantities compared to other suppliers, we carefully study market trends to forecast demand and accordingly plan our supply with the farmers, and we provide a direct link between the farmers and consumers. Coupled with meticulous planning and a well thought-out strategy, our prices are competitive and our produce is affordable.

Suchita | Why did you decide to venture into Organic farming?

Ashmeet | I was always interested in working towards developing the rural community in our country. For any form of growth, you need to start at the roots. Agriculture as a sector is deep rooted in our country’s economy and tradition. I wanted to find a way for it to become a sustainable and stable source of income for families engaged in this sector. You need a strong foundation to grow, and agriculture provides that opportunity to a majority of our population. The problem within this sector arises because of poor management. 30% of the fresh agricultural produce goes to waste in our country. There’s barely any quality control. In this largely underdeveloped market, I decided to narrow my focus on organic farming because not only is it cost effective for the farmers, but its benefit to ones health and even the environment is phenomenal. We had conducted a training for farmers in UP, and I saw the difference in produce and conditions when vegetables are grown organically. And it’s remarkable! I wanted to bring this quality and fresh produce to others, and that’s what I envision for ‘I Say Organic’ – bring this produce to consumers at a price that they’re comfortable with.

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Suchita | So your approach is to make it more accessible to people….

Ashmeet | Yup, that’s right. It starts with demand based planning of farms. So we study the demand for different vegetables and help farmers plan their output. We bring efficiency in operations through proper sorting and grading facilities, investing in cold storage so there’s minimum wastage in the process of transportation and delivery. There’s a major benefit to the farmers as well- because they aren’t spending anything on pesticides and chemicals, the revenue for their yield is a lot higher. A higher profit to the farmers, health benefits to the consumers and overall cost efficacy- that’s our approach!

Suchita | You’ll deliver organic produce to my house as well, right? That’s super!! 

Ashmeet | Yes we will! You just have to call us or order online, and you’ll get the delivery on your doorstep!

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During our interaction, Ashmeet told me that farmers rarely eat their farm grown produce. Instead, they have little gardens where they grow vegetables organically for their personal consumption. And I can see why! When you see a bottle of pesticide with a danger sign on it, and you’re spraying it on your fields everyday, there’s no way you can feel alright about eating that produce. For us, ignorance is bliss, and we blissfully eat our aloo-gobi & bhindi because we don’t see the behind-the-scenes of how they’re grown. There’s a reason why they say you are what you eat. There’s a reason why world over, people are shifting to clean eating. And even though the physical difference between two cucumbers isn’t tangible, I’d like to spare myself 60 different types of pesticides in my next meal {that’s actually what goes into some of the veggies we eat!!}. I say organic? Yessir!

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