Many of us dream of leaving behind a fast-paced life to live close to nature and grow our food. Although this is an exciting prospect, few of us take the plunge.
Aniish Shah is one of the few. After working in the corporate world for 16 years, he decided to quit his job in 2016 to pursue his passion — farming.
He received training from experts and faced numerous challenges.
“I had worked in marketing and sales and was earning well, but after a point, I realised that I was doing the same thing in different organisations. I was living out of a suitcase because of all the travelling, and I was tired of the rat-race. So I decided to pursue what I love,” smiles the 42-year-old
Now, Aniish is an organic farmer-entrepreneur, who grows close to 20 crops on 30 acres. Some of these crops include groundnuts, wheat, turmeric, black-eyed beans, corn, pepper, mangoes, and cashews.
He also has a farm-to-table venture called Earth Harvests where customers are sent weekly crates of fresh organic and natural produce.
Currently, they have over 400 regular customers. Aniish also uses ingenious techniques of biodynamic farming, a form of alternative and natural farming without any chemicals.
Additionally, he also practises agroforestry on 1.5 acres of land, growing trees of silver oak, teakwood, sandalwood and areca nut, bananas, pineapple, papaya, guavas, and chikoo.
Through his farming practices and consultation services, Aniish earns nearly Rs 60 lakh a year. He has even exported his veggies to the Middle East and the UK.
Terrace Gardening Paved the Way
Aniish did not grow up on a farm but was raised in Mumbai’s concrete jungle. He completed a Bachelor’s degree in commerce from Somaiya Institute in 1999 and joined the Business Standard as an executive in print sales. After working there until 2001, he pursued an MBA degree from the same institute.
For nearly 16 years after that, he held roles in sales and marketing at The Times of India, Future Media, and Network18, among other organisations.
In 2012, he began working as the vice-president of an energy company in Bengaluru. His home had a terrace, and he wanted to put it to good use, while also utilising the city’s perfect weather conditions suitable for gardening.
Aniish picked up some soil, seeds, and a few pots. Within two months, he went from two to 20 pots.
“I grew beetroots, carrots, kokum, chillies, radish, french beans, tomato, brinjals, palak, and methi without any chemicals. I had so much produce that I would often give it away to my friends and neighbours,” he recalls.
The sense of fulfilment pushed him to learn more about farming. He spent close to 20 days on the farm of Narayan Reddy, a pioneer in organic farming in Karnataka. From him, Aniish picked up ancient knowledge on farming.
He did not have any land to implement all his learnings, but some of his friends did. He decided to use their land for farming and divide the profits.
Overcoming Initial Hurdles Through Resilience
In 2016, he quit his job and returned to Mumbai to pursue farming on the outskirts. About 70 km from the city, he started working on a 16-acre land. He got it leveled, created ponds for irrigation, and set up other irrigation systems. But, things didn’t go as per plan.
“That year was particularly bad in terms of rainfall, and I realised that even though I had set up everything, the soil would not lead to a successful harvest. The temperature was around 42 degrees, without any viable sources for irrigation. I would have ended up in debt, and so, I pulled out of the project. I spent almost Rs 8 lakh from my savings,” he says.