Three Bengaluru companies bringing the best of organic produce to your doorstep

If you have been looking to make the switch to organic produce, here is a starter guide of three players in Bengaluru 

April 23, 2024 02:41 pm | Updated 03:36 pm IST

Subscription-based produce providers promptly send a basket of vegetables and fruits of your choice every week

Subscription-based produce providers promptly send a basket of vegetables and fruits of your choice every week | Photo Credit: elenaleonova

Tired of ordering your groceries from online e-commerce portals that offer ten-minute deliveries but stale produce? Perhaps it is time to make the switch to a subscription-based produce provider who promptly sends a basket of vegetables and fruits of your choice every week. You may pay a slight premium when compared to mainstream aggregators, but you are assured of quality, chemical-free produce. A good bargain, we say. Having said that, choosing the right platform does not come easy: trying out various players, checking whose product is the freshest, and wading through clunky apps and poor customer care service. For instance, Healthy Buddha and Sahaja Organic, both popular platforms in the city might offer a great product list, but the apps remains clunky, as is the customer care.

Children harvest vegetables at Bhoomi Farms

Children harvest vegetables at Bhoomi Farms | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Bhoomi Farms

Launched in 2022 by Shankar Venkataraman who has been practicing organic farming in India from 2015. “I was farming in the USA for eight years prior to this, and after coming to India I noticed that it’s hard to fetch a good price for high-quality organic produce by selling it through middlemen.” For example, he explains, the recent market price for high-quality organic tomato was ₹12 per kg to be paid to the farmer. “It’s difficult to even grow tomatoes at this price, leave alone the cost of harvesting and grading it to marketable quality. The cost of organic tomato production per kg is around ₹20 for plantings done under one acre,” says Shankar who has seven farms operating in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Apples at Bhoomi Farms

Apples at Bhoomi Farms | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

While he admits that cutting off middlemen involves a lot of work: grading, packing, building a website, sales, digital marketing and brand building, Shankar says “it’s worth the effort”. Which is why his brand — with prompt delivery and fresh produce — is a popular name in the city that retails vegetables, fruits, pulses, and value-added products such as sweets, and jams. “Our farm-grown greens and salads made with products grown at our farm are very popular,” says Shankar, whose platform (with over 2,500 regular customers) offers a-la carte and a vegetable box membership. The latter, he says, is different from a subscription as the membership allows customers to choose the vegetables at a better price. 

He explains Bhoomi’s farmer partners — in multiple locations across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu — are provided seeds, seedlings, farming inputs, and agronomy services by agronomists. “Once crops are ready to harvest, we take all the crops to ensure the farmer gets income above his cost of production. We also help farmers do on-site compost and other farm made inputs for use in farming.” Shankar says the farmers require stable support prices to continue their work, and  “Bhoomi ensures that by working in the field with farmers. Our agronomists completely control how the vegetables are grown and visit the farms daily”.

A box at Spudnik Farms

A box at Spudnik Farms | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Spudnik Farms

“In a world where everyone claims to have the freshest and organic fruit and vegetables, there just aren’t enough trusted or reliable sources of fresh produce,” says Sumeet Kaur, CEO of Spudnik Farms that kickstarted operations in 2019. “Although I have been practicing agriculture since 2013, my initial experiments growing and supplying produce to friends and acquaintances made me realise that there is a huge gap between the quality of food urban consumers eat and the high prices we pay for them,” says the agriculturist who has witnessed the tremendous pressures that farmers operate under and “also seen how exploitative, wasteful, and inequitable our food system is, with most risks borne by vulnerable farmers but higher profits concentrated in the hands of middlemen and retailers”. This, coupled with the negative impacts of climate change prompted her to launch the brand as a subscription service that delivers indigenous and local fruit and vegetables directly from farmers to consumers in Bengaluru.  

Bhavani, the daughter of a farmer, with radish

Bhavani, the daughter of a farmer, with radish | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Offering a range of subscription boxes, Sumeet works with farmers in Chikkaballapur, Nelamangala and Joida in Uttara Kannada, a mix of individual farmers and farmer collectives.  “We focus on small and marginal farmers. Those who have less than five acres of land and face challenges in accessing markets for their produce,” she adds. 

Unlike other players who offer varied buying options, Sumeet says her reason to go the subscription model way was to ensure consumers “stop viewing food as a commodity and start seeing the inherent value in food and the work put in by farmers”. A subscription model allows this, she says, as it creates a direct link with farmers and consumers are aware of who is growing their food, and where, how it is cultivated. “For farmers, subscription guarantees a market for the produce and ensures better cash flow since it enables farmers to grow multiple crops. Customers get fresher food because of a shorter supply chain and get to try new and unique produce which might be otherwise unavailable in the market,” she says, recalling how when she started out, the Madanapalle tomatoes were a hit with subscribers.

Sarita, a farmer from Joida, with kona, a vegetable from the yam family

Sarita, a farmer from Joida, with kona, a vegetable from the yam family | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sumeet, who is now working on minimally processed products, and is aiming to formally launch their first range in 2024, says, “I then decided to grow them in larger quantities and supply them to an organic retail shop. While these tomatoes taste amazing, they don’t look the prettiest. While our subscribers had no issues with how the tomatoes looked and gave us many compliments about the taste, the retailer was unable to sell the same product because they did not educate people about the tomatoes. The link between the producer and consumer was broken.”

Organic greens at Bhoomi Farms

Organic greens at Bhoomi Farms | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sahaja Organics

In 2010, a group of organic producers in Karnataka came together to form the Sahaja Samrudha Organic Producer Company Ltd (SSOPCL) to enhance the economic viability of small-scale farms in the State. Somesh B, CEO of Sahaja Organics, a brand formed in 2018, says the wing was created to offer consumers a wide range of high-quality, nutritious food at fair prices. Today, the platform offers produce from a wide network of over 2,000 individual organic farmers and 20 organic producer groups located across Karnataka and various regions of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and West Bengal, who cultivate traditional varieties of food crops. 

A few of the products offered at Sahaja Organics

A few of the products offered at Sahaja Organics | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Their most popular products include rice varieties such as Rajamudi rice, red rice, black rice; oil variants; a range of millets;  spices such as turmeric, cumin and pepper; pulses including toor dal, Bengal Gram, chana dal, etc.; alongside fresh vegetables and fruits. At Sahaja, customers have the option to shop a-la carte or pre-order on an app (Briclay). The latter, however, is quite clunky and issues with regards to delivery slots remain.

With over 3,000 existing customers and “20% new enquiries every month”, Somesh says he is now working with women groups to manufacture value-added products such as chutney, masala powders, millet products, among others.

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