Published: 21st September 2018
Bengaluru-based Simply Farm is making it possible for people in metro cities to grow useful plants indoor
Nithin Pillappa and Sunil Kumar Pissaye came together from different professions to start Simply Farm, a start-up that encourages urban gardening and also helps people become farmers in their homes
In a city like Bengaluru where backyard vegetable gardens are diminishing to make way for multi-storey buildings, there is only one option left for the city's self-sufficient — balcony or terrace gardens. Realising the sad reality of urbanisation, two years ago, Nithin Pillappa and his friend Sunil Kumar Pissaye decided to come up with an innovative idea for people in metro cities to grow vegetables and other useful plants indoors. On June 5, 2016, which is celebrated as a World Environment Day, they launched Simply Farm. And for a period of almost eight months, they researched some of their unique products like self-watering planters, kitchen vertical gardens and hydroponics.
Urban farming: The vertical garden stand in which you can grow more than four types of vegetable and greens
Having worked with several start-ups and MNCs, Nithin and Sunil were familiar with the principles of running an organisation and the importance of customer satisfaction. "Nithin and I were friends from the time we studied engineering. As soon as I completed my graduation from BMS college of Engineering in 2011, I joined a start-up called Regalix and worked there for a few months. With the intention of doing a master's degree, I went to the US to pursue a Master's in Software Engineering and Management," says Sunil, who has also worked as a software engineer in several start-ups like Togetherville, which was later acquired by The Walt Disney Company. After spending over a year and acquiring skills in software, he felt the urge to make a difference in the world. Hence in 2013, he joined Rally.org, an American social online fundraising platform. "I worked for their website and assisted in developing their webpage for more than a year. In 2014, I returned to India and set up my own company, Story31. We were bringing out customised stories for school kids, but for various reasons, I could not continue to run it. In 2016, I joined Nithin who had already started working on Simply Farm."
Introducing hydroponics to grow plants at home helps to save 90 per cent of water as it is designed scientifically and the plants grow three times faster than it grows on the ground. Simply Farm currently has 600 customers in and around Bengaluru
The story of how Simply Farm started is a rather interesting one. Nithin had already worked as a Sales Head for several MNCs like Siemens, Spirent and Moxa, and the last company that he worked for was Kyland Technology. "I worked as a Business Head for India and South East Asia and during one of my business trips to Malaysia, I bought a DIY vermicompost kit for my daughter who loves gardening. That inspired me to do more research and set up my own start-up to encourage urban gardening, thus leading people to become urban farmers," he says happily. Surprisingly, despite setting up an agriculture-based start-up, neither of the two co-founders has studied Agriculture. While Nithin has an ancestral farm in Chikkamadure and some basic knowledge of farming, Sunil started working on the requirements of people who wanted to have an indoor garden. "When we asked people what they felt about indoor gardening, they said that they would not like to have plants indoors or even in the balcony as it may lead to water leakage and muddy floors. This motivated us to design products that are easy to use, contemporary and scientifically designed. Our first product was self-watering planters. These plants can be watered once in 15 days or a week. A mini pot fixed with the planter stores water and the soil absorbs it whenever necessary," he explains.
The future of gardening: Hydrophonics is the best way for growing varieties of plants at home and the tank stores enough amount of water so that plants do not die
Apart from this, their product list also includes vertical kitchen gardens in which you can grow three to four varieties of vegetables in vertical rows. Keeping space constraints in mind, they have designed the vertical garden stand in such a way that it is just two feet wide and one foot in depth. Talking about customer satisfaction, Sunil says, "The response from our customers has been amazing and the return rate is low. We have not had a single complaint about the product design or its use, but a few plants have been returned due to growth failure." Self-watering plants, vertical gardens...it sounds like gardening too is moving into the future.