Taking farming to the next level

Vinaya Patil
Sunday, 16 September 2018

With the philosophy of ‘Farm to Fork’, Earth Food, a VTP Rairah Foods venture, practises residue-free farming and gets these veggies to your plate in minimal time and with assured quality

What did you eat for dinner last night? The answer for most of us would be ‘some veggies/ meat/ fish’. That’s about it. We, especially the urban population, mostly have zero idea of the kind of food we consume, in terms of its quality, the way it’s produced, and from where and how our food reaches us. Of course, some diet conscious people are aware of their food consumption. But that is a small number.

What if you suddenly knew all of this — where and how your food is produced, the kind of quality maintained through the process, how it reaches you etc — and also are assured of the quality in terms of getting the vegetables fresh, neatly packed and at the ongoing market rates, with a brand behind it?

This is precisely what Earth Food is trying to achieve. A VTP and Rairah product, the retail vegetable business is the venture of these two realty companies, trying to get into what they call “residue-free” farming. “Earth Food is amongst the few companies in the country which produces their own vegetables that are completely residue free,” says Sagar Bora, director of operations at Earth Food, pointing at the 140 acres of land in Malthan village of Pune’s Shirur taluka where these vegetables are grown. The company has another 200 acres of land in the Belwandi village of Ahmednagar used for the same purpose.

Farmed in a natural way, Earth Food products reach the end-user in a hygienic and healthy way. The wide range of fruits and vegetables are grown without using harmful chemical fertilisers or pesticides and are sold to customers without adding preservatives and synthetic food enhancers. “I grew up hearing about ‘oh pehle kitna fresh vegetables milta tha and how we ate such nutritional food etc’. Also, I knew that other countries import veggies from us. That’s what got me thinking that this was the right time to do something like this,” Nilesh Palresha, founder of Earth Food, explains how the organisation was born under the banner of VTP  Rairah Foods.

“Earlier, even oil was sold loose but now there are brands. So why not veggies? It brings more liability to the product,” adds the executive director of VTP Realty. Palresha, a mechanical engineer by qualification, teamed up with his friend and fellow businessman Siddharth Khinvasara for this venture. Khinvasara, chairman of Rairah Corporation, a business house having interest in real estate, food and investment sector, joined Earth Food as a co-founder. “I primarily look into expanding to newer markets, driving strategic initiatives and adopting new technologies for farming,” he says.

Having researched on the agriculture industry in India and its nuances, Palresha knew that the industry had great opportunities as it is the backbone of our country but it lacked dynamism and professionalism. “It was this passion for agriculture and commitment to creating a difference that Earth Food was born. Agriculture is not just about growing fruits and vegetables, but going beyond and using latest technology to transform age-old practices, which would be beneficial to farmers and consumers alike,” he believes. 

Khinvasara too has a similar line of thought. “India’s burgeoning start-up ecosystem is at an amazing phase currently with many youngsters moving towards farming and doing their bit in making this an organised sector. Earth Food too will deliver what it has set out to and foster relationships with customers and farmers based on trust and quality,” he says.

For the farming to begin at this land, the quarry had to be converted into agricultural land and that was a major concern. “Getting a team who believed in the idea, building reservoirs, getting the right soil were some of the initial tough jobs that took a lot of time and energy. Once that got going and the right team was in place, I was sure of the end product,” Palresha informs.

One of the main USPs of Earth Food products is that they are residue-free. Minimally touched by human hands, reduction in the time between harvest and buying, transportation in air-conditioned vehicles is what VTP Rairah Foods does. The sorting and packing of the veggies is also undertaken in an organised and professional manner with A, B and C categories of which only the A category veggies make it to the markets as Earth Food, B sold loose and C discarded. A lot of this is attributed to the following of the global GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) practices at the farms.

The company offers fresh produce including both exotic and Indian vegetables like iceberg lettuce, broccoli, pok choy, zucchini, French beans, gawar, lady finger, green chillies etc. “We want it to be the first fresh vegetable brand in India,” says Palresha. When asked of the challenges in doing so, Khinvasara adds that producing the quantity is going to be a challenge once the product goes all out with its promotion and the demand increases further. The team is working on this, and also gradually engaging in some contract farming.

Earth Food products are currently available at some retail outlets in Pune and the company plans to expand operations to other cities soon.

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