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ICAR Awardee Tech-turn-farmer Proves Science and Agriculture Go Hand in Hand

Thrissur based organic farmer, Unnikrishnan Vadakkumchery, produces nearly 40 tonnes of fresh vegetables from a plot of land which barely measures 1.5 acres. This was possible because of his cutting-edge farming methods and innovative ideas.

Aiswarya R Nair

Thrissur based organic farmer, Unnikrishnan Vadakkumchery, produces nearly 40 tonnes of fresh vegetables from a plot of land which barely measures 1.5 acres. This was possible because of his cutting-edge farming methods and innovative ideas. 

In 2016, he has won the award of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for this bumper harvest on a small plot. 

Unnikrishnan began farming at the age of 11 by helping his father Prabhakaran. But, neither Unnikrishnan nor his brother Balakrishnan ever had any interest in the ancestral occupation. 

Unnikrishnan's affection towards agriculture developed after he realised the satisfaction of using organic techniques by letting plants grow on their own with minimal external assistance. Such methods have indeed proven to be immensely successful for his crops. 

Around 2012, Unnikrishnan showed some interest in farming after he witnessed a few farmers growing vegetables in the paddy lands following harvest season. 

In a media interaction with ManoramaOnline, Unnikrishnan said that his father was the happiest when he got to know that his son has followed the same career like his. His father had love towards agriculture and offered Unnikrishnan to bear any loss if incurred. So finally, Unnikrishnan started farming at his ancestral land. 

Initially, Unnikrishnan followed conventional chemical farming but ended in vain. He did not receive enough revenue and productivity and hence his tryst with agriculture ended up in sheer disappointment. 

In 2013, Unnikrishnan was ready to give up farming entirely when he chanced upon a TV programme on precision farming. He tried the technique but was not able to sell the product to the consumers. His second chance also failed. 

After some failed attempts, he met Dr P Jayaraj, Head of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Kannur.  

It was during a farming convention in Thrissur, where Dr Jayraj spoke about how the nutritional deficiency of the soil leads to abnormally-shaped vegetables and fruits, but Unnikrishnan denied it. The farmer complained about the lack of a market for organic vegetables. 

Dr Jayraj instructed Unnikrishnan to adopt a trial farming method for three weeks, which does not need any bio-pesticides or heavy deposition of manure. Three weeks later, the tech-turned-farmer got fruitful results. He was enthusiastic about finding the farming method best suited for him. 

Later on, Unnikrishnan practised shift cultivation round the year, where he sows vegetable seeds in the initial 50 cents of land. Once these are near-ready for harvest, he prepares the seedbed in another 50 cents. By engaging in this method, he can grow a wide variety of seasonal vegetables throughout the year. This way, he can manage to harvest vegetables three times a year. He also practises some vertical farming of long beans and bitter gourds 

Other than seasonal vegetables, Unnikrishnan also focuses on traditional agricultural products like coconut, areca nut, nutmeg, fruit orchards and paddy. 

The man believes that the key to his success lies in soil management and scientific cultivation. He now adjusts the soil pH value using lime, dolomite or potassium humate, according to the needs of the plant. The sowing of the seeds is also done in a curious manner to ensure the best germination conditions. 

He injects a mixture of organic goat manure, chicken manure, neem cake and earthworm compost to set the seedbeds. The beds are then covered with polythene mulching sheets, perforated at specific intervals through which the saplings can come out. Drip irrigation ensures accurate supply and lesser wastage of water. 

Every year, Unnikrishnan sells around Rs 10-11 lakh worth of vegetables, bringing in a profit of nearly Rs 8 lakh. His total harvest includes around 30 tonnes of vegetables and 10 tonnes of paddy. In 2016, he also won the award for the best vegetable farmer in Thrissur district. Unnikrishnan now serves as an inspiration for organic farmers to cultivate crops in a scientific manner. 



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