Entrepreneur

STRAWBERRY ORCHARD BLOOMS IN PATIALA

T

hirty six years old Navjot Singh Shergill of village Majal Khurd in Patiala is a man full of enthusiasm and has a clear vision. Navjot a post-graduate in management (MBA Marketing) from Punjabi University, Patiala started cultivating strawberries in the year 2017 on his ancestral land. Initially, he began cultivating on half an acre and gradually increased it to 3-4 acres.

“I am growing strawberries with modern techniques like drip/sprinkler irrigation and low tunnel farming. The strawberries grown at my farmare totally pesticide free,” he told cropsfarming.com. He’s full of pride when he says his fruit is organic free from all kinds of pesticides.

Mother plants of strawberry are imported to Pune (Maharashtra) from California in the month of May-June. The nurseries are in Pune that produce strawberry runners from these mother plants which are ready by September for transplantation. There are many varieties of strawberries out of which Navjot grows WinterDawn, Nabila, SanAndreas and Camarosa that are suitable to Punjab’s climate. The plantation is done by early October and the fruiting starts as early as December and lasts till April end.

CHALLENGES OF STRAWBERRY FARMING

Strawberry farming has various challenges like availability of plantation material, picking/harvesting strawberries in severe cold temperature (December/ January). “Strawberry being a perishable crop cannot be stored so we have to sell our crop as soon as possible,” said Navjot who has a specially designed packhouse unit for packing
the crop. Strawberry is a labour intensive and he has employed 8-10 village girls working permanently throughout the season for packaging of strawberries.

Currently he is marketing (selling) strawberries in national capital region around New Delhi, Chandigarh and its Tricity and other parts of Punjab. He is also attending various agricultural fests and other agricultural activities all over Punjab. Navjot says he has undergone various food processing training programmes organised by the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana which has benefitted him immensely.

“Now I am into the processing of strawberry products such as strawberry jam, strawberry crush, strawberry squash, strawberry barfi under the brand name NS Berry Orchard,” said Navjot. He said procuring good quality saplings is also a challenge as many growers of the fruit cant procure them from the right source and turns the profit making venture into losses.

During this tough time of pandemic (Covid-19) when all the transport mediums and Mandis were shut, he adopted alternative methods for sale of his produce and started door-to-door delivery (direct marketing) in Patiala and got a very good response from the city residents. “Strawberry being a rich source of vitamin-C and a great immunity booster, I got a good price for my produce, made permanent clients,” said Navjot on a high note.

ECONOMICS OF STRAWBERRY FARMING

Navjot said that if strawberries are grown in a professional manner, 65-70 quintal of fruit is harvested from an acre in one season. According to him he sells the fruit for Rs. 7 to 8 lakh a year from one acre. In December the rate touches Rs. 250 a kilogram however the average cost of a kg during the year comes out to Rs. 100-120 a kg. “Good earning depends on plantation time also and the quality of saplings,” said the strawberry grower. According to him one acre plants 20,000 to 25,000 saplings and each sapling cost Rs. 10-11. If earning is good input cost is also very high, all farmers can’t afford, he said. But certainly it is the best option to grow strawberries when profits in growing rice and wheat are dwindling.

For queries, Navjot can be contacted on 98725-95194 / NS Berry Orchard on facebook.

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