This Guwahati farmer is using microgreens to provide unconventional healthcare in Assam
You may have read about them or seen them on television – those little sprouts of green making their way and quickly harvested before they have a chance to mature. You may have wondered why are they harvested early and how they are used. Here's the story.
Nutritionists all over the world have begun looking into the health and nutritional benefits of microgreens. They are said to aid the prevention of complicated health diseases like cancer, heart diseases, diseases associated with eyesight, and many more. In India, like in many other parts of the world, producing microgreens is not yet a popular industry.
In Guwahati, there are only a handful of people who have taken it as a responsibility to ensure these vegetables are available to as many homes that need them. One of them is Rahul Sharma.
Sharma runs a microgreen startup called "Guwahati Microgreens". From here, Sharma harvests nutritious microgreens and distributes them to the people of Guwahati to improve the immunity and health of people in his community.
Born in Guwahati, Sharma obtained his B.Com degree from Bangalore University and afterwards ventured into the world of digital marketing and content creation. He prides himself as an ardent digital marketer with a passion for farming. However, his entrepreneurial career began in 2017 after a life-changing experience. He tells his story in this engaging chat with him.
"It all began when I returned to Assam after a tragic road accident in Delhi. Post recovery, I joined hands with Kite Manja, an adventure tour and camping company to take control of their marketing. Single-handedly taking care of different markets, including marketing tours and camping events gave me the needful confidence to think and act more with an entrepreneurial mindset", he says.
Following the effect of the coronavirus pandemic and the CAA agitation on the hospitality and tourism sector, many entrepreneurs like Sharma searched for alternative sources of income, till he was introduced to microgreen farming. "I was so excited to know that microgreens can be grown indoors. It's way easier, less expensive, more nutritious and, most importantly, can fetch twice the revenue even in a 12 x 12 ft room than what you get from fish farming or hydroponic farming. I never turned back from here and started growing microgreens from the beginning of May 2020."
Although still early in his journey, Sharma has swiftly caught up on the rudiments and technicalities of the plant. He speaks on the importance of microgreens and how one can incorporate them into their diet.
"Microgreens are a highly nutritional food source. The nutrient level may vary in different microgreens, but it contains 10 to 40% more nutrition than its mature counterparts. Although I cannot say that it can replace the regular vegetables and greens that we consume in our day to day life, a daily intake of these superfoods can help build a strong immune system for keeping diseases and illness at bay.
Microgreens are now getting all the required attention in the metropolitan cities for its enormous health benefits. It has the highest concentration of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties which may reduce the risk of diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack, pressure and a certain type of cancer. It is also highly beneficial for our skin, bone and hair as well", he adds.
The process of harvest and distribution of these microgreen vegetables can sometimes be challenging. Sharma speaks on this. "Initially, I had to struggle a lot with the soaring temperature, excess humidity, watering and seed selection. I manage it by building a compact growing rack with a controlled environment system with the help of a few talented young engineers. The next hurdle was spreading awareness about the availability of microgreens in Guwahati. Well, it is a continuous process, and I am doing my best to reach out to as many people as possible to talk about the health benefits of these plant-based superfoods," he adds.
Ever since his startup began, there has been a steady growth and increase in the number of microgreen vegetable sales. Sharma reveals the reason for this increase in sales. "Since the time of inception, I have about a little more than 20 customers right now, and they have turned into a repeat client. However, the numbers are increasing. Social media promotion and contacting health-conscious people of Guwahati helped to spread the word. Few restaurants are procuring freshly harvested microgreens from the farm. Currently, I am growing Bokchoy/ Pak Choi, Mustard Greens, White Radish, China Rose Radish, Green Peas, Red Amaranth and Wheatgrass. They are abundant in vitamins and minerals. Most of the varieties are rich in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper."
Sharma says the response has been overwhelming and almost every client who has patronised throughout the journey by leaving a positive review about Guwahati Microgreens on Google.
Although the pandemic has forced many to put their business plans on hold, Sharma has not failed to create plans that propel his business into higher levels immediately a sense of normalcy is restored.
"Plans are clear. I want to advocate for clean and healthy eating in Guwahati. I dislike using single-use plastic. Thus, I have re-introduced an old practice of using banana leaves for packing my products. It makes my packaging completely bio-degradable, ensures zero carbon footprints, and increases the shelf-life to an extent. I am interested in introducing more living foods shortly. It is a dream to see the majority of people in Guwahati, Assam or even in all of Northeast India growing microgreens for their self-consumption. I am also open to train individuals to grow microgreens. There are plans to conduct online and offline training sessions. Interested people may contact me to learn the art of growing microgreens," he says.
One can avail the microgreens on pre-order or monthly subscription basis. “My product is delivered within five hours from the time of harvest so Guwahati Microgreens is also promoting an authentic farm-to-table experience in the city,” Sharma adds.