In November last year, Agriculture Minister of Dubai Abdulla Jassim Abdulla M Almarzooqi chartered a flight to Kerala to visit Anakkayam, a village in Malappuram district. There, he headed to the Agricultural Research Station (ARS) of the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) for a first- hand assessment of the operations of the 25- acre farm.

The Minister later ordered a consignment of ornamental plants and fruit trees and arranged free visas for 100 workers at the farm, so that he could emulate the functioning of ARS in his country.

The Anakkayam ARS has captured global attention not only for its profitable operations, but also the innovative farm management, product diversification and labour management strategies that have made this possible. The annual income of the farm has touched Rs.2.56 crore. While KAU generates an income of less than Rs.8 crore from 3,500 acres, the ARS generates 35 per cent of the amount from less than one per cent of that area.

About 45 per cent of the total income of the farm is from the sale of vegetable and fruit seedlings and fruit graftings produced at the nursery. The processing centre at the station produces a range of value- added products including jams and pickles. Some of the hottest selling items are banana rhizome pickle, pseudostem pickle and raw mango squash.

“These two pickles by themselves, have the potential to make banana cultivation profitable for farmers and promote organic farming by offsetting the extra input costs, says Dr. P. Rajendran, Associate Director of Research, who heads the station. “We have demonstrated that a farmer can make an additional Rs. 4,000 from a single banana plant by producing the pickles,” he said.

Dr. Rajendran says value-added products from jackfruit also had immense potential to boost agricultural revenue and make farming more attractive. The station is planning to scale up its processing unit.

The ARS farm has three huge bottom-lined rain-fed ponds, each with a storage capacity of 10 million litres of rainwater. Out of the 500 tonnes of vermicompost manufactured here, a substantial portion is sold after meeting internal requirements.

The 270- strong workforce is organised into self-help groups and trained in specific areas of scientific farming, organic cultivation, plant management and product diversification.

The ARS also has a Hi-tech Karshika Karma Sena (agricultural army) of 123 youngsters trained in hi-tech methods of agriculture. The specialised unit offers its services to set up polyhouses, greenhouses, rain-shelters, drying yard, store and cattle sheds. It is distributing 300,000 growbags across the district.

“The Anakkayam station has made tremendous impact, in terms of transfer of technology as well as enhancing internal revenue of the University. This is a model we hope to emulate in other research stations,” says Dr. Rajendran.

The government has sanctioned an assistance of Rs.7 crore for an agro tourism project at the farm. A training centre, guest house, amphitheatre and duck farm are scheduled to come up on the farm under the project.

Dr. Rajendran is preparing to emulate the Anakkayam model at the research station in Ambalavayal, Wayanad, another unit under his charge. “ARS, Ambalavayal has 20 times the potential of Anakkayam. We hope to generate 2,000 jobs there in two years”.