"We are a family of farmers. My father Monji Chawda, a Gandhian by principle, had a rice mill. In 1948, however, my father decided to venture in to vegetable cultivation instead. We got a three-and-a-half acre plot of land on lease and started farming. Soon we expanded to 10 acres and were growing enough to lead a simple honest life.
In pursuit of my interest in farming, I graduated from the Allahabad Agricultural Institute, Uttar Pradesh. And in 1964, I joined my father on the fields. Back then, vegetable farming was done traditionally. There was no use of technology of any kind, be it in sowing, irrigation or storage. I was fresh out of college armed with a lot of knowledge - a degree-walla farmer - but soon discovered the huge gap between the theory I had learnt about
farming techniques and the methods practiced in reality.
We used to purchase seeds for cultivation and several times our crops suffered because of the poor quality. Besides, I observed that the seeds were often of mixed variety and there was no uniformity in the yield. So, I initiated a process to improve the quality by selection and then multiplication of the best seeds
By 1967, I had gained enough confidence from my hands-on experience and I started working on Sem (a variety of bean) seeds. The green swollen variety of Sem is in great demand all year round. However, the variety grows only in winter and Chhattisgarh doesn't have a conducive climate for it. The non-season bound variety is white, flat and bushy.
After five years of research and cross-breeding on my own, I succeeded in developing seeds which yielded non-season bound, green, bushy and swollen Sem.
However, it was only when Vimal joined me after getting his agricultural degree in the 90's that we began to commercialise our findings. We formally launched VNR Seeds and stepped up research on hybridisation. In 1997, we got fantastic results with karela (bitter gourd) and in 1998 we did the market launch. Word spread about the great quality of the seeds and demands started pouring in. There was no looking back after that.
Every member in my family has been involved in this passion. My daughter-in-law Rinku is an expert in drip irrigation. When we started off with our venture, my wife used to stitch the net houses herself.
During the course of developing the company, both Vimal and I made several trips abroad to countries like Japan, Israel and South Korea for extensive research activities and acquainted ourselves with the latest in advanced seed technology there.
In foreign countries, vegetables are an indispensable part of meals. People abroad eat vegetable salads of various kinds for a vitamin and mineral rich diet. Here in India, a salad means onions and cucumber! The awareness about the role of vegetables for a healthy living has to grow. Even so, the future is bright.
And VNR believes in involving its farmer friends in this brilliant future. Hence we stress on knowledge dissemination. Whatever we discover and achieve we want to share with our kisan bhai. I am no different from the farmers who buy my seeds so our mantra will always be Kisano ke hith mein (in the interest of farmers)."
|- Krishi Pandit Dr. Narayanbhai Chawda