Naveen is a weekend natural farmer and project manager with 15+ years of experience in investment research analytics and project management. Hailing from a village Rathanapuri near Hunsur - Mysore district, he is always passionate about Natural food, food processing, and the creation of market opportunities. During the lockdown period, he learnt a lot about Banana processing opportunities and now has become the first PMFME ODOP Banana beneficiary from Karnataka under the scheme. He is working closely with Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) Mysore & National Research Centre Banana (NRCB) for technology transfer and test marketing of his new product line produced in Abhay Natural Food Processing Unit with “Shuddha Aahar” brand name.

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Naveen Kumar at Abhay Farm fruit forest

Two foodies with finance and marketing careers and entrepreneurial family backgrounds dreamt of a fruit forest and sustainable natural farming. Both Naveen and Veena Bhat, Masters in Business Administration, had a decade of experience in project management and marketing.

Things looked up when they bought six acres of barren land in Kudineeru Muddanahalli village in Hunsur, Mysore district in 2013. They converted it into six acres’ natural fruit forest and purchased additional six acres’ land near Rathanpuri village for plantation and horticulture crops cultivation.

During their farming journey, they would sell their produce only to their organic online selling partners and hopcopm Mysore. Along with this, they started a weekly Farmers market in Forum Neighborhood Mall for 30+ weeks for selling their produce along with other 35+ farmers and vendors’ chemical-free produce. They got opportunities to have discussions and experience with other farmers in the value addition process after which they started producing Mixed natural fruits jam and Turmeric powder from their chemical-free produce from Abhayfarm with the same brand name – Abhay Naturals. Along with this they also conducted many events on mango or guava plucking, farm visits, and training/ workshops to create a community-supported agriculture model.

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Veena and Naveen created a farmer’s market at Forum Neighborhood Mall, Bangalore, and participated in farmers’ markets with their farm produce and value-added products

Unorganized Processing Effort

The initial product line of Abhay Naturals ranged from 4 to 5 products with the likes of Turmeric powders and Fruit Jams. These were produced at a small scale at home with an annual transaction of Rs 3 lakhs and a net profit of 25k to 35k.

The journey of the food processing unit took a turn when it received incubation support from Coorg Orange Growers Co-operative Society Ltd., Gonikopalu for producing high-quality Natural Mixed Fruit Jams, Banana Figs, Orange Marmalades, Bamboo Shoot Pickles, etc. which were made out of their farm produce. They also received support on recipe standardization, packaging, labeling, branding, and a better understanding of food processing activities.

Golden opportunity from Govt of India for all Agri entrepreneur - “PMFME Scheme”

Naveen and Veena have started following up PMFME scheme since its inception. For them, PMFME is the first food processing scheme that organized well with all the stakeholders along with capacity-building plans and training materials.

Naveen underwent PMFME 1st batch of fruits and vegetables 6 days of training from CFTRI Mysore. Following, he took the assistance of all training materials & model project report from the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT) for the preparation of DPR. He had many brainstorming sessions along with Rudresh K, DDH Mysore, and other Agri-entrepreneur on product development and market sustainability. SBI Hunsur branch team analyzed his project and processed further for funding.

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Naveen receiving participatory certification from CFTRI on 6 days 1ST Batch PMFME fruits and vegetables food processing training held on Jan 11, 2021

Naveen personally visited NRCB and IIFPT for understanding the opportunity of value addition and technology transfer which has been fully supported and guided by directors of these intuitions. Along with this, they had the opportunity to meet Prof. Ravindra Naik from Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Coimbatore who helped them in finalizing most of the machinery for their new food processing unit.

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Training and interaction visit to NRCB, Trichy

Naveen and Veena have also established “Mysore Raithyodhyami Foundation” for spreading awareness of the online training on PMFME scheme and value addition to help other interested Agri-entrepreneurs. Naveen and Veena are also planning of monthly Banana festival to create a market for ODOP Mysore products.

Road Ahead

With the support from the PMFME Scheme, “Abhay Natural Food Processing Unit” grew in confidence and increased their product line as well as expanded their production capacity. A micro enterprise that started with 3 to 4 products, now has a product line ranging from 18 to 20 products like banana powder and other allied products, Banana Figs, Banana fiber extraction, Banana Special pickles, and dehydration/powder of fruits and vegetables, etc. With the support of Dr. S. Uma, Director & Dr. P. Suresh Kumar from NRCB, and Dr. C. Anandharamakrishnan, Director, IIFPT, for handholding on many product innovations and development which have helped them to achieve the dream of setting up a retail chain on Banana based products in the upcoming year. Abhay Natural Food Processing unit is expected to make revenue of 35 lakhs/year in the upcoming year.

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Banana powder-based products of Abhay Naturals (under development)

(Content shared by Abhay Natural Food Processing Unit)