A new harvest

“You know your doctor, lawyer, and specially your barber on a personal level. I think it's about time you knew your farmer on a personal level,” says Achintya Anand. All of 24, but with a take on nine-to-five drudgery that swerves far from the traditional. Krishi Cress is his farming venture—a fertile patch in the capital’s southern extremity where a couple farmhands sow the city’s best produce under Anand’s guidance. Kale, mizuna and a whole greenhouse decked out in microgreens (his speciality) sit pretty in one of the several lush pockets dotting Delhi’s Chhatarpur—where sunbeams filter through and nighttime dew settles on fresh yield like nothing you’d imagine in a teeming metropolis.
The food in the capital is seeing new temporalities, and Anand is on the roster of young minds enabling it. He rises early, as early as 6am everyday. His daily ritual comprises a stroll around his farm dispatching orders to a growing clientele comprising off-kilter kitchens before he makes time for inventory, work on new produce, and calibrating with his team for the next day. “While working as a chef I wanted to have side projects going on, so I played around with a few things including microgreens. I grew the first batch and just took it to the chefs I knew at the time as I had so much lying around. They all showed interest in getting regular supplies, that's when I decided to give it (Krishi Cress) a shot,” he remembers. In her feature with us, chef Radhika Khandelwal of Fig & Maple talked fondly of Anand. Her kitchen is one among many in Delhi relying on Anand’s weekly dispatches of seasonal greens.

While State governments inch toward transforming urban spaces to concrete hotspots, it is young, talented entrepreneurs like Anand that stand strong, converting private land into green lungs. “Urban farming is a concept that has come up a lot recently in Delhi. The closer the food source, the better it is as it is ensures freshness. Not just small plots of lands, I think gardening and growing even a 20th of what you consume is a great idea,” he says. He is quick to point out: “Children and adults alike don't know where most of their food is coming from or growing. The term 'farm-to-table' is widely misused in the industry and should be adopted in our homes first rather than just attending some 'farm-to-table' event.” He knows his way around a field; his own sprouting a towering sunflower patch sits among many other edible delights. “Microgreens, apart from being 40 times more nutritionally dense as compared to their mature counterparts have also become something of an activity that end users can be invested in. We are supplying live growing microgreens to household consumers and institutional clients alike so they can cut and use the greens as and when required to ensure freshness,” he adds.

You’ll find Anand articulating about soil quality whilst handing out “the best mustard greens” from his field on any given day. The day we meet, he holds out a handful of sunflower seeds from dried husks, talking with quite acuity about regenerative land—his own planted with furrows of sweet corn and a sheltered patch of tomatoes that ripen year-round, and he immediately strikes as both intuitive and a keen palate.

A watershed experience, Anand’s taking to farming sheds light on farmland as connected, self-sufficient living systems that feed a nation’s fill of households and serve as a marker of progress. Here’s a primer on Krishi Cress’s next move, it’s specific place in the industry and everything it has it offer.
What niche is Krishi Cress filling? Is it a niche still or do you see yourself having fulfilled the initial goal you’d set out to?
Krishi Cress focuses on two things. One, meeting the specific requirements of Chefs in and around NCR and second being our focus on health and nutrition, focusing on crops with various health benefits and trying to preserve them via fermentation and other natural methods of preservation to enhance the nutritional value. It is been only three years, as I learn more the goals I set for Krishi Cress are constantly evolving and will continue to do so.

What’s next for Krishi Cress?
Krishi Cress is now in position to be able to offer it's fresh produce to household clients in NCR. We want to be able to get the fresh domestic and exotic produce straight from our farms to the consumers. We believe that the customer will be hooked on to the produce seeing the qualitative difference in our produce due right crop management and postharvest practices. Tell us about your influences in farming? Who do you attribute your learning to, if at all anyone?
Microgreens I learned through Online information and trial and error. Pretty much all I know about field cultivation, preservations and basic of business I would attribute my learning to my teacher Cmde Ajay Kumar Sawhney. He is 83 and still the sharpest and smarted human being I know with very short temper and tolerance for my mistakes. He has been farming for the past 30-40 years, along the preserving the excess produce in order to develop methods that may benefit the farmer and not be at the mercy of the buyers.

New methods of farming like aquaponics are making a splash the world over. Do you see us practicing progressive methods that claim better use of raw materials as opposed to traditional farming?
I personally have not really tried Aquaponic or other such methods that are being caught on to. I believe they are a solution to problem that western countries like United States face, lack of availability of fertile agricultural land. Some of us are adopting them blindly cause it just the 'next thing to do'. I do not contest that there are certain benefits that can be availed through such methods. Growing a plant in an Aquaponic system you are always feeding the plant what you think it needs through water based inputs. Growing it in the ground the plant takes what it needs majorly.
What all do you farm?
We are currently growing microgreens, edible flowers, mushrooms, baby garnishing leaves, exotic vegetables such as various varieties of lettuces, salsify, parsnips, Mizuna and so on. This year we are growing household vegetable with a qualitative difference such as Sweet Corn, Cabbage, Carrots, Beetroots, Methi, etc. We make preserves of the produce that we have at the farm. We have range of Probiotic Syrups such Swiss Chard and Kale Syrup, Citrus and Kale Syrup and Beetroot Syrup which are a perfect substitute to fruitless and nutrition less Monin Syrups available in the market and also makes a wonderful addition to any Salad Dressing. We also recently started selling Kombucha, which a probiotic fermented health food which we fortify with various health giving ingredients that we grow at our farm.

For more on Krishi Cress find them on Instagram and Facebook, or reach Achintya at 98710 15500.