The fancy word “entrepreneurship” often fails to convey the amount of hard work and grit it takes to build a sustainable venture. With mainstream media flooded by success stories every now and then, people fail to notice that many ventures fail along the way. While a lot of people pursue entrepreneurship as a trend without even knowing what it is about, only a few works on solving real-life problems and thus evolve as entrepreneurs. One such team of problem solvers is “Team Vermiponics”. They are a group of students of agriculture with a radical idea to revolutionize the agriculture sector.
“Agriculture does not simply mean growing crops, it is a multidimensional sector where one can dive into a wide variety of interrelated fields, from business to technology, while tackling the issue of production efficiency.” says Sandesh Subedi, co- founder of Team Vermiponics.
The Seeding of Passion
Subedi started developing a passion for agriculture along with his interest in earthworms during the second year of Bachelor study in Agriculture and Forestry University. Growing up, he remembers how the widespread use of pesticides and chemicals in farms made him wonder if there was a more effective and sustainable way of farming that could restrict the use of such harmful chemicals.
He finally succeeded in engineering his own answer: the fusion of two existing technologies: Hydroponics and Vermicomposting, to grow organic vegetables and also tackle the issue of land scarcity esp. in cities. Thus, he started Vermiponics together with his friends to introduce innovation in the agricultural field.
“Our aim is to solve the crisis of producing healthy organic vegetables using an integrated agricultural system which has an organic assessment base.” He further shares, “It has the advantage of better yield, off-season growth and waste management. To achieve this, we started with intense research on vermiform composting, haphazard use of pesticides in vegetables, and, terrace farming for commercial purposes, among other aspects.”
Flowering of the Innovation
Initially, it was difficult for them to enter the market, as companies were already working on the technology of Vermicomposting. After attending the “Udhyami Seed Camp” organized by Startups Nepal and M&S Next Venture Corp, they made the leap into the world of entrepreneurship.
They also expanded their product portfolio with Pot Culture,“The idea of Pot culture is to create an aesthetic environment by preserving nature through the use of the concept of Vermiponics in the self-designed flower pots.” He shares.
They have now been taking the lead in the work of rearing earthworms, and the use of worm tea, a by-product of vermicomposting as a method for growing vegetables and plants. Along with the commercial operation, they also train farmers, students and urban-dwellers alike, on various subjects including the art of vermicomposting, rooftop organic gardening and integrated pest management.
Nourishing the seeds of the team
They started the journey with an initial investment of less than NRs. 25,000 out of their own pockets.Their common dream of seeing a farming society free from chemical pesticides fueled their passion. Today Mr. Subedi proudly states that there are four co-founders along with eight hard working team members in the venture that has seen an upward growth trajectory.
Ploughing to progress
As a son of a farmer, Subedi had always been aware of the hardships related to agriculture. The experience served him as a compass for his journey in this area,
“Agriculture is taken for granted and is not regarded on the same levels as the other professions where people wear suits and ties. So the youths are sucked into a brain drain, unaware of a vast potential that it holds. Vermiponics is just a small example of this potential.”
He was no stranger to challenges and problems along the way: “Without challenges, it is not possible to assess the level of progress and I feel it is the challenges that guide us to achieve the goal we aim to reach”.
From the seeds they sowed, they have thus been able to reap the benefits: They have been successful at reaching out to the locals of Province 5 including the Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperative, which has partnered with them to create Smart Agricultural Villages. Furthermore, they have extended their roots to Province no. 4 in Pokhara and Syangja.
Fruits of Satisfaction
As it is said, “As you sow, so shall you reap”. Well, it applies here, both literally and figuratively. They sowed their ideas of entrepreneurship in the agricultural field, and now they are one of the leading groups in Nepal that are known for fostering innovation in agriculture. According to Subedi, just like a tree requires sunlight and water to grow into a healthy tree, they also needed moral support from family, teachers and friends to keep their dream alive. “I remember my family asking me about the rearing of earthworms, instead of asking how I was doing, which was their way of showing moral support. I found power in those moments.“, Subedi said with laughter. Their entrepreneurial philosophy is a straightforward one: Take risks, make mistakes, get feedback and move forward. Sounds so simple, but how many are able to do it?