The Agri Entrepreneur (AE) Program is the first of its kind in Manipur. The program is in collaboration with the Agri Entrepreneur Growth Foundation (AEGF), an initiative of Syngenta Foundation India and the Tata Trusts. Maolkeki Foundation is partnering with the group to connect Agri-Entrepreneurs to smallholder farmers. This is our first batch of AE's and we are excited to partake in the journey to help hundreds of farmers to better their livelihoods. For the first batch of our AE program, the selected areas are in Bishnupur District and Imphal West District. The AEs are a group of enterprising individuals who have taken up the challenges of the farmers in these areas. Each one of them is creating a value addition in the field of agriculture through their venture.
Most, if not all, vegetable growers in Manipur will allocate a small portion of their fields at the time of land preparation for the production of seedlings. Unfortunately, this practice leads to low quality seedlings that often come bearing soil-borne diseases and pests leading to lower crop production and quality. Chourajit’s ambition is to change this by establishing a greenhouse nursery business. He intends to produce high-quality seedlings which will be sold to farmers in the area thus saving them the hassle of producing seedlings and helping them plant the highest quality plants. Being a resident of the local village allows him to interact with the farmers directly giving him an edge in meeting the demands as per the requirements of the farmers.
Doren is another greenhouse nursery entrepreneur on our list. His business is also deeply rooted in the difficulties faced by the farmers during the plantation stage. Scarcity of good seeds and seedlings have led many a farmer cultivate whatever is available. His greenhouse venture is projected to provide high quality seedlings of cabbage, chilli, tomato, brinjal, bitter gourd, etc. at an affordable price to help farmers reduce their cost and improve their crop production.
Menaka is a practicing mushroom grower who is expanding her business in order to cater to the need for quality spawn. She is also expanding her product range to other varieties of mushroom. In doing so, she will be supporting other mushroom growers to improve their production through the use of high-quality inputs and proper training from her operations. A food processing unit is also in the pipeline where the produce of the farms can be converted into value added products.
Mushroom is among the food items gaining wide popularity among the masses of Manipur. Premkumar, who is currently a teacher by profession is venturing into this business in order to help meet the demands of the consumers, as well as provide spawn to other farmers to help them earn some income besides cultivating field or vegetable crops.
Kung’s business is unique as there is a growing trend for rejuvenating soil through natural means. After harvest, many farmers are left with piles of crop waste on their farms. These are left to wither or are dumped without proper treatment. In order to take advantage of this, King’s venture aims to transform farm waste into organic manure and return it back to the farm to help improve the yield of the farms. Soil degradation in his area is huge due to extensive farming and continuous cultivation of crops for decades. Many farmers have turned to chemical fertilizers to improve their yields however unregimented use has affected the quality of the soil and ground water reserves.
Farm-to-Fork Entrepreneurs (Delivery)
This is a first of a kind in Manipur. Manipuries love fresh vegetables and would traditionally go to the local markets to buy fresh. However, with increasing urbanization, workload and time constraints, many families can no longer source their vegetables directly from the market. Surjeet and Rajina are addressing this gap by offering the best quality vegetables, picked fresh from the farms and delivering them directly to the doorsteps of urban consumers. This ensures the highest quality vegetables and helps farmers earn a higher return by linking them with the market directly even before the farm produce are harvested. They have already established a customer base in Imphal West and now rigorously planning for expansion.
A young, enthusiastic agri-entrepreneur who is setting foot into leasing farm machinery to the farmers in his area. Farming in his area has been a basic and labour-intensive process which increases the cost incurred in cultivation. Manipur faces a huge scarcity of labour force due to its small population and the general preference amongst the younger population to work in the city. Thus, farm machinery can help farmers reduce the effort and achieve more in less time. His business model is to cater to the day-to-day needs of the farmers such as tractors, transplanters, drills, harvesters, sprinklers etc. which are required from time to time during the season. His rental business will help farmers who cannot afford to keep all the machinery due to lack of funds or storage or maintenance challenges.
A horticulturist by training, Vandana is a young entrepreneur keen to harness the power of the butterfly-blue pea flower which grows abundantly in this part of the country. Her venture will allow unused land in farmlands to cultivate the plants. The leaves will be harvested and processed into Blue Tea. Her venture can churn in some extra cash in the hands of the farmers.