Kashmiri apple with a Dutch twist

April 4, 2023

Srinagar: Kashmir-based agricultural start-up `Orchardly’ has joined forces with a Dutch company, `Koppert’ to grow pesticide-free and healthy fruit in the valley. 

Kashmir, of late, has seen a sharp increase in the use of pesticides, a  broad range of chemical compounds that are used to kill pests, including insects, rodents,  fungi, and weeds, and are mainly used for crop protection, agricultural food production, and disease control. 

Experts blame the swift conversion of agricultural land into high-density orchards on the unabated use of these harmful chemicals. This has led to adverse health effects in farmers who are directly exposed to the pesticide sprays and pose a big risk to the consumers as well. 

Offering effective and eco-friendly solutions to this growing menace, Orchardly, the first Agtech startup of J&K which specializes in horticulture has collaborated with the Dutch Company, Koppert.

“We are focusing on biological control of pests and a range of bio-agents with less/negligible residue levels. Having partnered with Koppert, which is a world leader, we aim to provide an integrated system of specialist knowledge and natural, safe solutions that improve crop health, resilience, and production. This will eventually help farmers in many ways,” Ehsan Quddusi, one of the co-founders of Orchardly told The Kashmir Monitor. 

He elaborated that the Dutch company has a world-class reputation for growing food that is both safe and healthy. 

“They believe the answers to the agricultural challenges lie in nature itself by using natural enemies to combat pests, bumblebees for pollination, microbial, and biostimulants that support, protect, and strengthen crops, improving plant health both above and underground,” Quddusi said. 

He said the growers and farmers worldwide use Koppert’s products and knowledge to restore the natural balance in their crops. 

“Therefore, we hope to improve crop health, resilience, and yield in Kashmir through this tie-up,” the entrepreneur said. 

Vijaydeep, North Head, Koppert India said that Valley produces about 75% of the total apple in the country and the demand for residue free, safe and healthy apples is increasing exponentially. “Koppert helps in protecting the crop by biological means by using beneficial insects, microbial based product and botanicals in partners with nature. Also helps in rejuvenating the soil by probiotics and prebiotics that consecutively helps kashmir growers to cultivate safe and healthy apples sustainably,” he said.

Senior Scientist at Plant Biotechnology and Agro Technology Division CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine, Jammu, Dr. Wajid Waheed, who is studying naturally occurring plant-derived pesticides like terpenoids, welcomed this initiative by Orchardly. 

“Our lab at CSIR-IIIM, Jammu is using a molecular approach to understand how these compounds are biosynthesized and transfer the molecular machinery to high-value crop or fruit plants, to create molecular biodefence factories in these high-value crop and fruit plants where these pathways will get activated once plants are attacked by pests,” Dr. Wajid said.

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Hirra Azmat

When the world fails to make sense, Hirra Azmat seeks solace in words. Both worlds, literary and the physical lend color to her journalism.

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