Farmer’s Notebook: The Life of a Banker Turned Farmer

Struggling to improve yield levels with traditional methods at his coffee plantation, Hoysala found great success with technological innovations.

Hoysala at his plantation. Credit: M.J. Prabu

Hoysala at his plantation. Credit: M.J. Prabu

Farming, especially in India, is generally considered to be a traditional field that’s averse to innovation, however  M.G. Hoysala’s successful decision to quit banking for farming with the help of technological innovations, shows that keeping an open mind towards new, nontraditional cultivation techniques and interacting with experts in the field is essential for achieving farming success.

While many come into the profession unwillingly, Hoysala represents a section of people that actually wants to take on the family vocation. After spending five years working at a private bank, Hoysala came to realise the importance that the agriculture and plantation sector held for him. So he left his job and took over his father’s coffee plantation.

Since he took over, the Hoysala’s 40 acre farm in Karnataka’s Kodagu district has become a role-model of sorts for the other farms in the area.

As is common in the region, Hoysala grows Arabica coffee on his farm, but what differentiates his farming practices from the rest is the presence of tall indigenous trees that grow alongside the rows of coffee bushes, their height providing shade for the lower shrubs. Another distinguishing factor is the presence of black pepper vines that cover the trees’ trunks.

Starting off as an amateur, Hoysala initially followed the locally practiced traditional forms of cultivation. However, his lack of experience and the absence of proper guidance worsened his predicament. Disease-damaged crops, low productivity and a lack of knowledge about advanced production technologies were just some of the problems Hoysala faced when he took over the coffee plantation.

Collaborating with experts

Hoysala recalls contacting the Indian Institute of Spices Research around the same time as he started to realise that he would need technology if he wanted to stabilise his plantation’s yield level in a sustainable manner. His association with the institute started when he attended an eye-opening seminar organised by the organisation’s regional station at Madikeri, Kodagu.

That first seminar taught him about the varietal wealth of black pepper along with information on various crop production, protection and processing technologies that were being developed at the institute.

Drawing on his experiences from the banking sector, Hoysala was certain that the timely and meticulous adoption of technologies designed to aid crop production were essential to maintaining a profitable plantation.

“The productivity of vines was below the level of expectation and we could hardly harvest six tonnes from an area of 40 acres. We understood that not adopting recommended measures in time, especially to control diseases, could lead to heavy crop loss,” says Hoysala.

“Moreover, we were unaware that instituting shade regulation before the monsoon and irrigation during the summer months would improve the setting of berries and ultimately increase the yield.” 

After Hoysala had established a close relationship with the regional station’s scientists, he set about addressing his plantation’s problems one by one.

Shade regulation was the first priority, followed closely by the scheduling of fertiliser, increasing organic inputs fortified with growth-promoting organisms, regularly monitoring the crops for diseases and irrigation during the summer months. 

“By adopting these [new and] improved technologies, we have increased the production from six to 12 tonnes. [Which is] on average a two-fold jump within a time span of five years,” said Hoysala.

The plantation’s irrigation system was further strengthened by the construction of water harvesting structures like farm ponds and bore wells. Besides these measures, Hoysala also had pits dug between the rows of coffee plants to harvest run-off water as it also helps with enriching the soil.

The changes extend to pepper cultivation as well. Two years ago, Hoysala took ten acres of land which was used to grow ginger and transformed it into a well-designed pepper plot with silver oaks to serve as standards for the vines and robusta coffee bushes interplanted with the pepper vines.

It currently costs Hoysala a total of Rs 85,000 per acre to implement these measures along with paying the regular operational costs of running the plantation. In return, he earns Rs 1 lakh per acre per annum from the coffee and black pepper grown on the farm, allowing Hoysala to maintain the sustainable, profitable plantation he aspired to.

For further information, contact:  M. G. Hoysala, Sri Siddalingeshwara Estate, Hardur P.O., Suntikoppa, Kodagu, Karnataka–571 237, mobile: 09449682430.
Email: [email protected]n and his guiden Dr. S. J. Ankegowda, Principal Scientist and Head, ICAR-Indian Institute of Spices Research Regional Station, Hervanadu Post, Appangala, Madikeri, Karnataka – 571 201, Phone 08272 – 245451; 245514; 298574. Mobile:  09663069241, email: [email protected];[email protected]

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  • Ajeet Gautam

    great going you have set an example for many to follow.