You might think that the best way to grow trees is directly on the ground, but Kattappana-based Bijumon Antony disagrees.
“Even dry-grown trees can cause tangled roots and slow flowering. All the nutrients we give in the beginning go directly to the roots. The owner of Miracle Farms, an exotic fruit farm in Idukki, Kerala, says “air pot gardening” is a way to avoid this by planting seedlings in pots filled with holes that can be placed anywhere.
In addition to being a farmer, Bijumon also manufactures and sells his own air containers. He says that this farming method is widely spread in foreign countries such as Israel, China, and Japan, and it gives faster and better quality crops. “However, due to the high cost of such pots in India, most farmers do not adopt the technique here. On an average, a pot costs Rs 650 on major e-commerce platforms,” he says.
Bijumon was a photographer by profession and ran a studio near his home. Coming from a farming family, the 47-year-old man has always engaged in farming as a secondary occupation. But only five years have passed since Bijumon turned his full attention to agriculture.
“I started as an integrated farmer, rearing goats, cows, blackbirds and fish, and cultivated several crops including cardamom and pepper. I constantly read and researched about new types of farming suitable for Kerala’s climate. Six years ago, I came across the idea of cultivating exotic fruits, some varieties of which can withstand the heat and rain of the state,” says the farmer.
Today, Bijumon Miracle Farms grows fruits such as apples (25 varieties), oranges, peaches, pears, almonds, walnuts, apricots. Their fully grown airport seedlings can be purchased on the farm and delivered domestically.
What are air containers?
“Air trays are wide sheets of flexible plastic with conical indentations. There are small holes at the ends of the recesses. The sheet comes with a few screw-type fasteners and a flat round piece of plastic screen underneath,” says the farmer.
“Utensils can be stacked by folding the mattress into the bottom part. The advantage here is that more air passes through the existing holes, thus benefiting the plants. Also, when the roots are exposed to the atmosphere, they become dehydrated and new roots are formed. These will be fibrous roots that require less nutrients. The remaining benefits of the soil go directly to the plant,” he explains.
Bijumon started this method after planning to start apple farming. He bought a few pots online and says the results are great. But he couldn’t make a decent profit because the pots were quite expensive, which led him to make his own pots.
With the help of a Coimbatore-based company, he now makes them in various sizes. At first, people who came to his farm were interested in the pots and wanted to buy some from him. This eventually turned into a business and his pots were named “Miracle Pots”.
“The price range of pots is between Rs 50 and Rs 1,000 and on average, a pot of Rs 350 is enough to grow a tree. The price is lower when you buy in bulk. People usually come here and buy directly. I also courier them all over the world,” says the agrarian entrepreneur.
Aside from growing trees, containers can also be used to make compost. As bacteria grow faster due to more oxygen in the holes, composting takes fewer days if done in air containers, he assures.
Air container gardening helps plants stay fresh and provides all their nutritional needs, says Bijumon. It delivers results in half the prescribed time and requires less labor. Another notable advantage is that trees grown in this way can be easily moved to any other location without damage.
“All you need to do is buy a container of the required size, fill it with soil and plant seedlings. Sometimes watering and fertilizing is enough. Everything else is the same as regular gardening,” he says.
She is ready to expand her production and make the pots available at local farm stores. Bijumo, who studies up to 8th grade, is accompanied by his sons, who provide technological support by launching a website and YouTube channel to popularize this farming method.
The farmer received the state government’s Karshakotama Award in 2019 and Karshaka Tilak Award in 2020.
Interested in air container gardening? Contact Bijumon 9048505848.
Edited by Divya Sethu
All photo credits: Bijumon Antony