We caught up with the founders of Gourmet Garden, Bengaluru’s uber cool startup that brings the freshest vegetables to your plate
Gone are the days when one thought that organic produce, both fruits and vegetables are meant to be expensive. It did make sense before because you paid for what you got. Fresh, chemical free, juicy vegetables that our elders ate 30-40 years back.
With our soils being so polluted with chemicals, it is hard for one to actually believe if the food you are eaten is actually free of harmful and carcinogenic insecticides & pesticides. This is where Gourmet Garden comes in. With fruits, vegetables and greens that are grown with utmost care and most hygienic conditions, they are truly organic.
The startup has also pioneered in a technology call naturoponic and hydroponic way of farming that allows them to grow veggies that you probably saw only in certain seasons, all year. Read through the interview below to know more on what they have to say about their journey.
1. What really made you give up your jobs abroad to come back and get into farming, and that too setup such a huge process of hydroponic method of farming?
Our paths to this play were different but for both of us, it was a combination of 2 things a) the conviction that this method will be the future of farming perishables and b) the resonance with the lifestyle choice of consuming holistic and safe food ingredients as consumers ourselves. All of us desire high quality nutritious produce that is safe to consume, but this is highly compromised by existing age-old farming practices, overuse of pesticides, and harsh supply chain processes. As consumers become increasingly aware of food quality and demand better, we are convinced that sustainable methods of farming will replace the open field inefficiencies. When early pilots and efforts paid off, it was clear that the impact to consumer lifestyles, to farmer incomes, and to the environment is huge. Worthy purpose to motivate the moves!
2. What are the growth plans for the company? How do you plan to scale and expand to other cities apart from Bangalore & Chennai? If you plan to expand, will you be setting up farms in those areas or will Bangalore continue to be your largest hub?
We are currently in 2 cities i.e. Bangalore and Chennai. We will soon scale quickly across all top cities. We think we will have 5-6 clusters in the country over a period of time covering 15-20 cities. Each cluster will have its own farm network to enable efficient logistics and to ensure the produce is unmatched in freshness
3. There is a lot of conversation among traditionalists that certain vegetables and greens must be grown in particular seasons only and should not be consumed or grown all year long. What are your thoughts?
Veggies and fruits were grown in certain seasons as they otherwise did not survive the harshness of other seasons – again a function of open farming. Mangoes need the summer weather to thrive, berries need the cold winter, leafy veggies need the winters again as summer and monsoons can destroy crop. With our methods of farming where we grow produce with great care in greenhouses, a larger range of veggies and certain fruits can be made available throughout the year, all tasting very good and being completely safe to consume
4. You’ve also ventured into spices and dry fruits, seeds, how do you see that market growing when people trust their Kirana-wala for the best quality of supplies?
We have a unique offering in everything we sell. For e.g. our Naturoponic range of produce is easily the finest veggies one can get hold of – they are grown in optimum environment conditions using very high quality seeds and clean water, without pesticides. So the taste, crunch, and freshness is leagues ahead of regular veggies and leafies. Our organic produce range is fully certified and traceable, unlike other sources that just stick out a claim without certification. In fruits, we have the widest range under one roof, including several Indian and international favourites. Similarly, in spices, we have ensured to differentiate by only offering spices with highest aroma content owing to their authentic source, and also launching freshly ground range that is significantly higher aroma than any spice powders you can find in market. Our dry fruits too are some of the highest grades from around the world. We have noticed that when we offer the best/ not so easily available products to customers, they love us for it and shift over from their existing destinations to us.
5. Gourmet Garden has introduced the traditional Bangalorean to a variety of greens. Some that people would only have when they travelled abroad. How did you go about planning to grow those certain leafies?
There is a massive nutrition gap among us Indians. This is primarily due to absense of micro-nutrients from our food basket. Have you noticed most indians live on roti, rice, and dals? These carbs/proteins are necessary but not sufficient, and the absence of vitamins and minerals can destroy immunity. We saw the worst threat of that last year. Leafies are the most micro-nutrient rich produce, and when grown with the right inputs, can also be very tasty and crunchy. Open farming models simply cannot grow leafies safely and consistently which is why it is a significant focus for us. The lesser known lettuce, kale, watercress etc are superfoods in nutrition and people are rapidly taking to it.
6. What’s next for Gourmet Garden? Premixes, Sauces & powders
While we explore a few more things, all within the realms of fine food ingredients, we will never lose focus on what we are primarily known for – offering the widest range and finest quality veggies and fruits. We will constantly innovate to make this better and wider, and be a household name for freshness and safety in veggies & fruits.