Telecom major Bharti Enterprises' agro-food venture FieldFresh Foods will raise its farm operations to 100,000 acres from the present 4,000 acres in the next three to five years, a top company official said on Wednesday.
A 50:50 joint venture with Rothschild Group-controlled ELRo Holdings India Ltd, FieldFresh Foods grows mainly fruits and vegetables on land leased from farmers who are in turn employed to grow crops for exports, said Rakesh Bharti Mittal at a meet on rural business hubs organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
"We are planning to raise the farm lease operations from 4,000 acres currently to 100,000 acres in the next three to five years. In addition, we are setting up a research and development centre, FieldFresh Agri Centre of Excellence in Ludhiana over 300 acres," Mittal told the media on the sidelines.
Seeing good demand for Indian fruits and vegetables in overseas markets, FieldFresh is testing technology to improve the yield and quality of products. This would then be showcased to farmers mostly in northern region to diversify from cereal production to vegetables and fruits.
The research centre will soon see FreshFields carry out trials for growing export quality capsicum, bell pepper, legumes and snow peas.
This would help the company expand its basket of vegetables - okra (small ladyfinger), green chilli, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, baby corn - and fruits mainly for the European and Middle East markets.
"Our objective is to physically show benefits of high yields to farmers and help them diversify to undertake cultivation of non-cereal crops with good export potential," said Mittal.
"We are now developing a mango and grape programme for exports beginning next year," he added.
He said that of the nine tonnes of mangoes exported to Japan this year after a gap of over two decades, FieldFresh supplied one tonne.
Estimating the agri-business to grow into a billion dollar enterprise, FieldFresh is currently in talks with air cargo operators for faster delivery of products.