India is seeing rapid urbanization with more than 34% of its population now residing in urban areas. This unprecedented growth leads to food demand that puts pressure on existing fragile food systems which are heavily dependent on long-distance supply-chains. Worsening pollution in urban India has aggravated this crisis further. What India’s cities therefore need is a food system that is resilient and focuses on human health. In simpler terms, a food system that ensures food is locally available, affordable, and nutritious.
Through two decades’ experience of working with the tribal farmers in Araku, Naandi has been able to develop a food system model which can be replicated in rural and urban areas. Built on the PQR framework, this Arakunomics model guarantees Profit for farmers while enhancing the Quality and nutrition of food supplied to the consumers through a Regenerative approach that ensures no collateral damage to the environment.
Applied to an urban setting, the model helps create a ring of self-sufficient 100-hectare organic farm clusters within the peri-urban region of a city. These then become production clusters that feed the city. Each of these 100-hectare clusters work on a hub and spoke model, a network of entrepreneur farmers associated with each hub. The farmers grow their crops organically by leveraging all needed inputs, expertise, and services from the hub which also doubles up as the procurement centre and guarantees quality-based buy-back. Network farmers hence enjoy the convenience, economy of scale and a guaranteed market. Crop planning is done at the hub in alignment with market demands hence reducing wastage and price fluctuation.
Aptly named Urban Farms Co, the programme is built around such hubs focused on producing farm inputs and developing farm practices that ensure network farms develop regenerative soil with an active microbiome. These farm inputs are produced out of organic raw materials that are sourced locally within the cluster. Optimum machinery, standardardised processes, specialized bio inoculants, and a dedicated team converts waste into high-quality farm inputs that address nutrient needs of the rhizosphere, strengthens plant immunity, and leads to nutrient-dense produce. This can help immensely in addressing the issue of crop residue burning in northern India, an active contributor in the startling pollution figures we are seeing in the country right now. Farm management is carried out by skilled farm teams with tools & equipment that enable quality practices with efficiency. The final organic produce is bought back by the hub, sorted, cleaned, packed, and delivered to urban consumers. This pre-farm to customer model provides complete transparency and traceability. The first cluster was piloted in Palla village, peri-urban Delhi in July 2019, which produces an average of 100 tonnes of vegetables every month. Similar beginnings have also been made in the cities of Bangalore and Hyderabad.