Chief Executive Farmer?!

Three years back when I heard of Hydroponics for the first time, I was super excited and curious. Excited because I thought this micro farming method may help me jump-start as a farmer. I had, by then, decided to trade my promising job in IT and leave USA for good in exchange of my career in farming.

I knew nothing except the only farming experience in my childhood of visiting few of my farmer friends’ fields, planting few plants and plucking, burning and eating groundnuts. I roamed around without directions for some time. Though my lacking experience in the farming domain added to my disappointments, along with other logistics troubles, I saw hydroponics more like looking for water source in a desert. Yes! That really quenched my thirst by helping me to understand so many facts about farming and that too I could practically learn farming techniques sitting in an IT jungle called “Bengaluru”!

Ever since I started teaching farming through Belesiri, the organization I founded to promote soil-less farming, I started receiving calls from people with different backgrounds. They were equally curious about hydroponics as I was few years back.

By the time they called me and few other hydroponics institutes, they had already gone through lots of videos and online materials which give them more energy and excitement! I get calls mostly from professionals who are either fed up with their routine job or they are in their 40s wanting to get into more exciting roles. I think leaving your job just because the other side appears to be green to you, is a unwise. You must observe caution and take time to think as to what you exactly want to achieve. I was earning good money in my corporate world – and I am not saying earning money in farming is a sin. You can do whatever you want to and earn money too but… the passion for the work should come first and it is important to have lots of patience – you cannot kick a plant to become a tree in one day.

When someone decides to quit his/her job, hydroponics looks like an alternative career. One such example of one of frustrated IT professionals called me once and asked me… “Is this profitable business?” I really hate to answer this question, which many people ask but – I can’t keep quiet! Instead of answering I threw back a question as an answer… “Do you think running a grocery shop is profitable business?” He was literally shocked and was struggling or hesitating to answer. Or maybe he felt ‘what rubbish!?’ I continued…  “There are many people who have successfully earned their livelihood and even become very rich by running a grocery store, but there are even more who had to close their business within 3 months. Similarly, there could be no solid answer for your question, right?” Then he said he agrees.

Hydroponics is a technique to grow plants using mineral rich water. All other challenges which growers experience remain same. It is not a magic! People think it is a very easy way of growing plants and money together! If it was so easy then there would have been more farms everywhere than anything else. This is a simple technique but you need to put lots of effort to get to that stage. It may take a year or few years!

Another most frequently asked question is “Can we learn farming in ONE DAY?” Never! It is three years since I started my journey as a farmer and I am still learning. It is more like learning each day and this business is only for those who are curious and accept learning as a journey. We can be a better farmer but never the best! It takes quite a bit of effort and hard work to achieve anything meaningful. I normally advice people to start small and do not invest truck loads of money until they are very much confident on how to grow a specific crop and more importantly how to sell your produce.

Just like micro-farming, start with baby steps before planning to scale. Most of the failures are not because of the lack of growing skills but because of poor marketing skills! As an independent farmer, you must wear many hats – a good salesman, digital marketer, influencer, growth hacker and the likes. Also, farming is not just about making money – it’s an organic lifestyle. I chose farming to be a happy grower myself and not really as a quick path to be a crorepati. There are folks who calls me to check whether or not hydroponics is an answer to the layoff in automobile industry – “sir, can I just switch the industry and start earning from next month?” – so my answer is obviously a firm NO. I am not here to sell fake dreams – but  to sell practical ideas for organic living and contribute towards making earth a better place for the next generation to spend time on…

(to be continued…)  

Guruprasad Kurtkoti trains students of St Agnes College on Hydroponics

Mangaluru, Nov 15: The departments of Botany and Chemistry, St Agnes College (Autonomous) organized a one-day workshop on Hydroponics on November 14 for the BSc students with Botany/Chemistry major in the chemistry laboratory.

The main objective of the workshop was to encourage non-conventional methods of cultivation to adapt to the changing environmental conditions. This was enforced by the principal Sr Dr M Jeswina AC who urged the students to grow plants in the college campus using the techniques learnt in the workshop.

The seminar was presided over by Guruprasad Kurtkoti, founder and chief of Belesiri, who has trained more than 300 students in less than 18 months on scientific farming techniques. He spoke about many advantages as well as the challenges that accompany the field of hydroponics. Hydroponics refers to soil-less cultivation and is a method of the future that is adopted by many countries in order to obtain healthier plants and a better yield.

The theoretical explanations were followed by practical demonstrations to help the students to better understand the processes involved in this technique and get a hands on experience. The students received a lot of tips to help them grow plants using this method in an easy and economical way.

The interactive session was attended by 45 students and ended with some steps on how to start with hydroponics on a small scale and then advance to production at a commercial scale.

Helen Serrao introduced Guruprasad, Froidy Fernandes proposed the vote of thanks and Manasa of second year BSc compered the workshop.

(Original media release : )

How can you succeed with Hydroponics…

One of my favorite stories I listened to during my childhood was “An Old Man and his Horse”. 
It goes something like this…
An old man was traveling to a nearby village along with his son riding on their horse that was well fed, well built, and strong enough to take challenges. Along their way they met a person who stopped them and scolded them for being so rude to the horse as he wondered how can horse tolerate both of their weight on her back?  Amazed by his reaction dad decided to walk and he let his son sit on horse. They had travelled few yards before they met another person. He scolded his son for being so selfish for making his dad walk while he being young settled on the horse comfortably. Now, the father decided to ride and the son walked while another person commented on the Dad being selfish making his son walk! Finally, they discussed and decided that they both walk. Soon they met another guy who cannot help laughing at the sight of them both walking in spite of having such a strong horse at their disposal. 
I believe that this story is very relevant even today. We get to hear comments on all our actions, reactions, what not – even about the work that we do to make a living.  When I got posted to United States for a long-term assignment, many of my friends asked me why did I decide to switch geography at my mid-life. While, the fact was that the opportunity didn’t knock earlier – but when it did, I seized it. Some of my folks declared that I will never come back to India etc. You see how creative can people get at weaving stories about others. And Gosh! When I returned to India after several years, these very folks were super-concerned about my being back in my home land!  
One of the top questions I often get asked by my students is: “Is hydroponics very expensive? Is it sustainable? My concern is because of my friends and people tell me failure is guaranteed if I get into this full-time.”As an answer to this question, I would say regardless of it being hydroponics or any activity that you undertake, if you dedicate your time and energy into in 100%, there is no telling how far it can take you. Hydroponics in not super expensive nor you can do that incurring zero expense. The pundits who are rolling out opinions either may not have followed the correct, scientific methods of hydroponics or they screwed themselves up listening to advocates of “easy path without effort”. Look folks, though we are living in a free world, there is no free lunch. Of course, you are free to pass opinions and/or comments anything under sun – that doesn’t cost a dime – reason why we are blessed with much more arm-chair pundits around than we can handle.  
When you decide to tread on a different path, expect unsolicited advises, suggestions and comments from all quarters. From my experience, I would strongly recommend that you keep the filter with you firm and steady. Always remember to keep the weeds away from heart and soul because if you switch plans heeding to useless advise of these “so-called pundits”, you miss the bus and reach nowhere.  
To talk about, hydroponics – it is no rocket science – but rather a fusion of art and science about capitalizing on the concepts of soil-less farming using our own backyard (or front yard for that matter). 
Being a responsible individual adopting a method of sustainable living, it gives you much more “happiness” which cannot be equated with the money you earn. However, as they say, money always follow passion and not vice versa. I am a person who left the comforts of a cozy 9-5 job in the “IT world” for the passion of doing something in the “real world”. And, yes! That makes a difference in the long run. 
At Belesiri, we are super-pumped about all that contributes to sustainable living. We educate people about hydroponics and encourage them to grow. We provide focused training on how to scale the business. If you have the passion for farming, get the right equipment, follow the scientifically tested farming methods, you are all set to go and win – have no question about it.

Guruprasad Kurtkoti, Chief Executive Farmer, Founder and Coach @ Belesiri