Award winning software engineer-turned-farmer Mavuram Mallikarjun Reddy is talking about his journey from software to agricultural production.
If bad loans, crop failures and low yields run like dark clouds over agricultural activities, organic farmers like Mavuram Mallikarjun Reddy are the silver liners. The software professional, is born in the village of Pedda Kurumapally in the Karimnagar district of Telangana.
Mr. Reddy is the only farming person from the State to receive ‘Jagjivan Ram Abhinav Kisan Puruskar’ from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The award was given to him for the cultivation of different types of crops through organic farming.
The day after receiving the award in Delhi, Mallikarjun returned to his experimental area, the farms. His wife, Sandhya, says the hype of the last month is new to the family and relatives. ‘Many friends and family who disapproved of his decision to quit his job and move back to the village are now admiring his achievement. It’s proud and excited to reap the benefits of hard work and entrepreneurship.’
The journey began in 2014 when Mallikarjun, a B.Tech (Computer Science) graduate and an employee at global leading technology enterprises, left his software job in Hyderabad. The decision wasn’t too sudden. When he visited the hospitals with one of his relative, hospitals were full of patients and doctors often talked about the toxic effects of harmful chemicals on food and milk. It was alarming to see how we pollute ourselves and the environment.’
The last straw was the death of his friend’s daughter from cancer. ‘I didn’t want to use toxins for my family and I started the change,’ says Mallikarjun.
Inspired by the episode of Aamir Khan’s talk show Satyameva Jayate and the farmers Subhash Palekar and Rajiv Dixit, Mallikarjun decided to go ahead with a plunge.
Farming wasn’t new to his family. He took over the 12 acres that his farmer-father and role model Laxma Reddy owned, and began ploughing a unique path—a semi-organic farm with paddy (rice crop). As the results were not as expected, he cultivated paddy in drip irrigation and then attempted hybrid red gramm farming. He then practiced the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) farming methodology to enhance the productivity of rice.
It continuously improves knowledge by following the agricultural innovations promoted by Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU), hyderabad, Telangana. Mr. Reddy also won the University’s Best Farmer Award. Now, he explains, his organic farming produces more profits than other farmers.
If regular farming requires an investment of 50,000 for 60 quintal paddy, Mallikarjun invests only 25,000 to obtain output, with a gross revenue of 1,13,000. One of the main reasons for his ICAR award was his ability to invest less and make big profits.
Efforts by Mallikarjun in integrated farming, rainwater harvesting through farm ponds and open wells for increased ground water, raising awareness among other farmers of the misuse of pesticides and stubble management have also been appreciated. ‘Stubble burning also has a negative impact on one’s health and the environment. I use a waste decomposer, a biodecomposer technique that is the result of 11 years of research by the agricultural university.’
Interestingly, Mallikarjun manages the fields on his own, without employees. He follows a 12-hour work schedule—awakening at 4 a.m. to feed sheep (nine), goats (21) and cows (three—Ongole, Ghir and Sahilwal) before going to the farm. His daughters love 600 fish that live in an open well in the fields. He says that he walks around 26,000 steps around the farm feels physically fit and healthy after I moving to agriculture.
The software engineer-turned-farmer has also launched an organic shop in the colony of KPHB, where he sells his produce of a group of farmers from his village. ‘Organic farming sustains the environment,’ he describes. Small farmers must start small to sustain agriculture and their livelihoods as well.’