The farm generates employment, rather than merely being only a self employment centre
Shyam Prasad and his wife Prasanna P Bhat at their tissue culture laboratory, Pethri, near Udupi, Karnataka
t is dedication and commitment, rather than academic and professional qualification, which can define success in self-employment entrepreneurship, even in a field as the intensive agriculture, which is driven by modern trends in biotechnology. The success story of the husband-wife team of the small town Puttur near Mangaluru is an exemplar of this common sense dictum.
Shyam Prasad and Prasanna P. Bhat left their home town Puttur, with only high school certificates, seeking new livelihood, and re-settled themselves in a small village, Pethri in Brahmavar near Udupi, Karnataka. There they started a small scale Annapurna Nursery in 1997 with a loan of Rs.2 lakh from Syndicate Bank. They produced and sold planting materials (seedlings) for arecanut, coconut, spice plants, and others for the next ten years.
During this period, they had first-hand experience of the issues such as loss due to diseases and other plant mortality problems, and as a result, they realised the problem of the scarcity of adequate planting materials. To solve these issues, they decided to launch a tissue culture nursery venture as a challenge. They underwent a month’s training in tissue culture at Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra (GKVK), Bengaluru, followed by 15 days of refresher course at Rural Self Employment Training Institute, sponsored by Syndicate Bank and Canara Bank, Bengaluru.
In 2008, they launched their new tissue culture laboratory on the 10 acre land they had already purchased, with financial assistance of Rs.20 lakh loan from Syndicate Bank and Rs.20 lakh subsidy from National Horticulture Board. Now their tissue culture laboratory employs 40 persons — 15 skilled staff and 25 unskilled labourers — and is run on a professional scale. Plant tissues (ex-plants) were collected from selected high yielding banana varieties (mother plants) and their virus index tested at GKVK Bengaluru. These ex-plants were cultured in nutrient medium under sterile conditions — each ex-plant can be induced to divide and develop into complete plants, to produce large number of seedlings.
The culture produces 250 to 300 micro plants from a single ex-plant in about 8 months through an 8 cycle process, one cycle being four weeks duration. Within 8 months, the plants are ready for sale, after a month each of primary hardening and secondary hardening in poly bags.
Their tissue culture farm now has four green houses (poly houses or shade houses), which ensure production of high quality planting materials of uniform grade, in all seasons through the year.
The total capacity is said to be of 20 lakh in the laboratory and 30 lakh in the green houses. They produce many varieties of banana, (G9, rajapuri, nendran, red banana and others) — the selling price is Rs.8/Rs.10 for small net pot, and Rs.15/Rs.25 for poly bag plant, the price varies from variety to variety.
The farm generates employment, rather than merely being only a self employment centre. This is the major part of the success story. Moreover, they are now ready to venture to become a training centre for aspiring farmers in tissue culture — Shyam Prasad is already a visiting faculty at many Farmers’ training centres in Karnataka. He is also actively advocating the benefits of timely repayment of bank loans.
“Prasad’s success story has become a role model for financially viable self employment schemes and small scale employment ventures, providing farm activities for all who are ready to invest in dedication and commitment more than anything else,” says, P. Selvaraj, Deputy General Manager and faculty member in Bankers Institute of Rural Development (BIRD), the training establishment of Nabard, Mangaluru.