Talk to Tiger: Zero pesticide @ First Agro

When it comes to pesticides in your food, how do you know that it is safe? How would you ensure there are no pesticides or harmful chemicals like Endosulfan in them? Is there a solution or are we just feeding our families and loved ones poison? Tiger spoke to Naveen of First Agro while trailing him and his 18 odd pet dogs on a hot summer day. Naveen walked us through their First Agro farms, Talkad Hobli, Mysore explaining why Zero is good for you and me.

Naveen had just flown in from Japan and his jetlag doesn’t hold him back as he leads us to see how First Agro is taking up the Zero Pesticide challenge and is on the way to be the first commercial grower in India. Thanks to the team at First Agro, we have a commercial grower who thrives on growing vegetables in a healthy way and strictly avoids pesticides like a plague. Naveen and Nameet set out on this wonderful (ad)venture away from their very successful regular jobs.

Growing zero pesticide vegetables is done with full intent and passion here at First Agro where care is taken in the seed selection, i.e., non-GMO seeds to not using any pesticides, chemicals and harmful substances that would otherwise kill the insects, bugs and prevent diseases apart from increasing the produce manifold but the end produce is overloaded with carcinogens and what not. Very few standards exist in the world and a small minority of farmers follow these practices like CODEX standards. The best part is that they are in the process of researching and documenting the study to find out which pests are bad and how to restrict them and this is going to be published so these super successful indigenous methods (like using neem spray, garlic chilli spray, companion planting and so on) are available for all farmers. We saw many reports where the test for pesticides are done voluntarily and we were surprised to see the results as not found.

As we set out to walk in the farm we are told to get tired and hungry for a delicious lunch is being prepared by aunty (Naveen’s mom and a charming lady) who cooks from the farms choicest produce. Naveen led us through different green houses where saplings are planted and nurtured to have a higher success rate of growing to plants. Emerging out of the well maintained, organized nurseries we walked into a beautiful field of red, yellow, orange, while, black and green. Well so many tomatoes of different sizes, shapes, colors adorned ahead of us welcoming us from their heirlooms. As we walked out through the tomato gardens we were overwhelmed with the abundance of the produce and the care taken for each sapling reflecting in the lush produce. We are all set to a culinary experience as we were asked to taste different tomatoes and told how each one was different to another in texture, taste, color, shape, thickness, juiciness and sizes.

Naveen knows almost all the staff by their name and was inquiring about their kids, schools, festivals, problems and how they were doing. The atmosphere was less of a work force and more of a family and it was clearly showing that the team loved what they were doing as there was minimum wastage and it was all being done with a smile as if it was their own field. We were told that most of the children of the team was put through school and other such care was taken ensuring the otherwise high attrition to stay low, create loyalty and empowering them to bring out the quality both in produce as well as their lives.

As we moved on to the farther end of the field we were greeted by chirping-ready peppers in different colors – white, black, yellow, red and plain green. While some of them are favorites of the chefs in all the top hotels in Bangalore, the UFO pepper is still fresh in my mind. Apart from tomatoes and pepper, First Agro grows bitter guards, brinjals, cabbages, cauliflowers, garlic, carrots, potatoes, greens like palak, pudina, basil lettuce, and these two are in many colors and shapes. With all the modern technologies like drip irrigation, solar powered water pumps and their zero wastage policy the farm is inching towards a self sustained project with all the up to date technology and adopt industry best practices like food recall. What doesn’t get shipped out as produce to the retail outlets is either pickled, sun-dried, used as manure or seeds for the next crop.

Nothing goes waste here and once you see how much care goes in to the production and nurturing you would feel assured to pick up their produce clearly marked with Zero pesticide mark and is available in Total, Hypercity, Auchan, More mega-stores, Food Hall and many online shops like Bigbasket and the list is only growing.

As we came back from the tour we were treated to a wonderful lunch of roti, beans, peas sabzi, sliced brinjal fry, veg pulav, fresh cut salads and the most savored dish of the evening – the amazing gajar ka halwa that aunty made for us. As we traveled back to Bangalore I knew what I would pick up next time I am looking for some veggies unless I grow them myself.

As First Agro spreads its wings to all the corners of the country with over 16 locations identified and initiated, you can see their produce soon in all the stores in India. What First Agro brings to your table is not just a zero pesticide tasty veggies but all the love and goodness of the Cauvery valley.

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