This soil-less produce startup now delivers to Chennai’s doorsteps

This soil-less produce startup now delivers to Chennai’s doorsteps

Bengaluru’s Gourmet Garden returns to its home base, Chennai, with a range of soil-less deliverables in biodegradable packaging

“Controlled environment farming needs inputs of about ₹1 crore per acre,” says Arjun Balaji, co-founder, Gourmet Garden. “Our idea was to figure out how to make it feasible in India, with a low cost margin, because customers won’t pay a high price point for crops,” he adds.

Today, Gourmet Garden has a patented naturoponic farming approach and delivers fresh produce across Bengaluru. “But it was all started in Chennai, four years ago, by my partner Vishal Narayanaswamy,” says Arjun. Chennai is now back in the duo’s radar, for reasons beyond ideation. Gourmet Garden that has set up a small facility near Uthandi, is looking for additional facilities and local partners, and has already begun delivering their fruit, vegetables and other produce across Chennai. “We deliver to all pin codes in the city, but only some of them on a daily basis for now,” says Arjun, adding that they have received 250 orders from customers in their first week “through word of mouth alone; we have not done any marketing yet”.

Their word-of-mouth reach is not surprising; Gourmet Garden’s appeal is very specific. Since they grow all their produce in polyhouse or other indoor infrastructure through soil-less mediums like water beds or coconut fibre, they can claim to have complete control over what goes into the greens they deliver. “We realised that we cannot really assure the quality of our products just by being part of the supply chain, which is why we stepped into production. We have two kinds of products: naturoponic, grown in controlled soil-free conditions; and organic produce that is chemical-free,” states Arjun.

Gourmet garden founders Vishal Narayanaswamy and Arjun Balaji
| Photo Credit:
Special arrangement

While the latter category has seen a steadily growing market for years, it is during 2020 that the former — naturoponic produce — has an edge. “Only in a soil-less medium can you ensure contamination-free production,” says Arjun, adding that the firm keeps an eye not only on what they grow, but also on how they deliver it.

To that end, biodegradable packaging is another point of pride for the brand, and Arjun boasts about having inculcated some food science into their package planning and design for freshness. “We use biodegradable MAP [Modified Atmosphere Packaging], with laser perforations for most of the veggies that have high transpiration, cloth net bags for dry veggies, paper bags for fruits, and bagasse/punnet trays for delicate items,” he says, claiming that the packaging they use is obtained from a vendor in the UK who is certified on food safety and degradation parameters by the international laboratory group Eurofins.

Arjun also points out: “Packaging is a less understood subject and we are trying to build awareness. It is essential to not only keep produce fresh, but also to keep contamination out. Despite it being higher cost and requiring more time and effort, we still do it to ensure our customers get the best healthy produce.”

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