Navi Mumbai duo sets up strawberry farm, officials plan to replicate model

Panvel taluka officials claimed this is a first such experiment in Panvel and could now be replicated in other parts of the taluka.
Sajjan Pawar, 40, and his nephew Prashant Pawar, 32, at their farm in Navi Mumbai. (Bachchan Kumar/ HT PHOTO)
Sajjan Pawar, 40, and his nephew Prashant Pawar, 32, at their farm in Navi Mumbai. (Bachchan Kumar/ HT PHOTO)
Published on Feb 16, 2021 12:16 AM IST
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ByRaina Shine, Navi Mumbai

Navi Mumbai residents may not have to travel to Mahabaleshwar to see a strawberry farm anymore as an uncle-nephew duo from Panvel successfully cultivated strawberries in Vavanje village of Panvel taluka. Strawberries grow only at places with cold temperature, and yet Sajjan Pawar, 40, and his nephew Prashant Pawar, 32, decided to try to cultivate it in Panvel. Panvel taluka officials claimed this is a first such experiment in Panvel and could now be replicated in other parts of the taluka.

“During a farmer’s exhibition at Khandeshwar in 2019, we saw that farmers from Mahad had cultivated strawberry. We wondered if they can then why can’t we. The climate at both the places are more or less the same,” Prashant said.

The uncle-nephew duo purchased 100 saplings and cultivated them in a small area in Vavanje in November 2019. The saplings bore fruits after a month and half. “After the experiment was successful, we decided to try it at a larger scale. So, in 2020, we purchased 1,000 saplings and cultivated them in 714 square metre (sqm) land in December. By February, all the saplings bore fruits which tasted at par with the ones from Mahabaleshwar,” Pawar said.

The duo has already started getting orders for strawberries and is selling it locally at 250 per kg. They also took part in the state government’s ‘vikel te pikel’ scheme.

The duo plans to cultivate strawberries in a much larger patch of land by the end of this year. “Next, we are planning to target at least a five-acre land to cultivate the strawberries,” Prashant said.

While Pawar is a resident of Kanpoli village, Prashant stays in Palebudruk in Panvel, and both belong to farming families. “When it comes to vegetables, a little variation in quantity of water doesn’t make any difference. But for strawberries, temperature and quantity of water plays a major role. It is not as easy as growing vegetables. One has to keep in mind the temperature and water the plants accordingly. If it’s cold, then the watering is done in the evening. If the climate is warm, the watering is done in the morning. One has to also see that there are no sun rays directly falling on the crops while watering them,” said Pawar, who is also pursuing diploma in agricultural extension services for input dealer (DAESI) from Khopoli.

The biggest challenge to grow the crop in Panvel was the quality of sand. Mahabaleshwar has red sand while, in Panvel, the land has mushy mud. With MIDC area nearby, pollution was another challenge the duo faced.

“Even with all the challenges, we managed to grow the crops in an organic way without using any chemicals and fertilisers. We used 25 micron mulching paper that kept the fruits away from the mud so that it doesn’t get spoilt. The paper also helps to keep the plant cool and doesn’t let any other grass grow besides the crop,” Prashant said.

Dattatrey Nawale, sub-regional officer, Panvel taluka, who visited the farm, said, “It is the first-ever experiment in Panvel and hence I visited them. The fruit indeed was very sweet and it would be a good initiative if other farmers of Panvel too think of doing the same. Panvel rural area has a lot of barren land which could be utilised for strawberry farming in winters, and to motivate the same, I have written to Raigad collector to suggest a scheme to fit in strawberry cultivation.”

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Tuesday, December 07, 2021