Sadia and Rafi recently got married and bought an apartment in Gulshan. For quite some time, they were trying to transform their typical house into a green home. They have two spacious verandas and quite a large rooftop.
As both of them are busy with their careers and jobs, they had a hard time materialising the plan. Moreover, they had little expertise about the whole gardening process - which plants or flowers to buy, what kinds of soil to use, where to buy those from and how to take care of them.
They were delighted when they came to know about an agri-focused start-up that was offering exactly what they are looking for. The start-up is named Nagarkrishi.
With the help of Nagarkrishi, they set up vertical gardens on their balcony. Now, they could grow various vegetables, herbs and flowers. Additionally, Nagarkrishi provides further services such as soil mix, fertilizers and farming tools.
How the idea was formed?
In 2016, Kamrul Hasan, the CEO and co-founder of Nagarkrishi started the venture with his younger brother Mahfuz Hasan. Back then, Kamrul had just started working for an advertising firm after graduating from media studies and journalism. That job gave him a chance to travel across Bangladesh. He started taking pictures of nature and people.
He has always had a fascination for the green nature. To his sadness, the green and vegetation dwindled rapidly in his own eyes as he grew out. But whenever he got time he fled in nature. As his brother was a student of Sher-e-Bangla Agriculture University and had the passion for greenery, they used to do their own experiments in farming at their rooftop garden.
"My brother was studying agriculture and one day, he came with two of his friends and told me they want to start something and asked me to invest. I agreed immediately and thereon we formed Nagarkrishi," Kamrul talked about the beginning of Nagarkrishi.
"We started a model farm and grew various sorts of vegetables and fruits like strawberry and dragon fruit. We even farmed chicken, fish and whatnot. All of our efforts to grow food on our rooftop worked out great. Then we started wondering why aren't people doing the same? When we look at the buildings around us, we see most of the rooftops are empty," he added.
But when they thought of reaching the masses, they encountered difficulties. "After experimenting with our model firm, we started asking people for setting up rooftop farms around Mohammadpur. No one permitted us, we couldn't even make it to the owners, the caretaker wouldn't allow us inside," said Kamrul.
With no way around, they took a bold decision and published a Facebook page and started advertising there. Soon, people seeing their preliminary works on the Facebook page become interested and some even let them work in the rooftops and balcony.
"We did some research and identified some barriers. The most common problem we found was that people living in cities do not have enough time for farming. Secondly, most of them do not know how to farm, and the ones who know were facing problems accessing the right tools and materials needed," said the CEO of Nagarkrishi.
Kamrul elaborated, "We figured out a solution for each of the problems. Do you have less time? Our expert gardeners will go and set up your farm for you. You want to do it by yourself but don't know how to do it? We offer training. You are already farming at home but facing problems finding the necessary ingredients and tools? You can easily order them online from wherever you are. We developed three types of soil mixes containing various nutrient components for different types of plants."
The services they offer
At the early stage, they offered gardening tools, materials, soil mixes, plants, pots, etc. Over the years, their services and activities grew in many directions - rooftop farming, residential and industrial landscaping, lawn gardening, indoor potted planting, vertical gardening, green office, farm maintenance, gardener services, consultancy, etc.
"For the last few decades, the amount of open and green space in Dhaka drastically reduced," Kamrul said while speaking about the factors that initially drove them to start Nagarkrishi, adding, "Dhaka's rapid growth has come at the expense of green space and vegetation, along with a rapidly rising cost of living, pollution and the proliferation of adulterated foods. We saw an opportunity to combat all these issues through our knowledge and love for natural farming and gardening."
Nagarkrishi will teach you which plants to grow, how to take care of them and how to make the best use of your space. They will also look through your house and help you reuse any containers you have to start your farm in. They will stay in touch as you farm, with mobile reminders and seasonal growing tips.
"Everything you need to get your little farm started - saplings, seeds, soil and potting mix, tools, custom shade solutions and a few other special things to help you lead a greener life - natural food, desk and corporate pot plants," Kamrul said.
Broadening the horizon
Largely, Nagarkrishi operates within Dhaka. But Kamrul is working hard to spread in other cities.
Recently, they have remodelled Faridpur's Alfadanga Upazila Office into a green one. A few months ago, the Alfadanga Upazila Council office in Faridpur was filled with weeds around the office.
Now, the whole Upazila square is full of fruits and vegetation. Along with the green grass carpet across the pond, vegetables are being cultivated. Walkways have also been built where people in the vicinity can exercise in the morning and afternoon to keep their health in check.
The vegetable cultivation is in addition to the green grass carpets across the pond. The park is being rebuilt, where the neighbourhood children can play.
There are also walking routes where people can work out. Many people are brought to the Upazila Square for various activities throughout the day. Everyone is impressed with this new form of Upazila council.
"We are very proud to be able to work with such an initiative in design and technical supervision and in the future, we are planning to partake in many more projects such as this" said Kamrul.
While the initiative may not have been able to create a large-scale impact yet, Kamrul believes that they can create a ripple effect by inspiring others around them. He always believes that micro-level changes can add up to make a massive impact eventually.
"We may not be able to give up our city lives and go back to nature, but we can bring it back to us. Farming is fun! Give it a try, you'll find out for yourself," said Kamrul.
Although, one problem still remains. Not everyone has access to their roof. But that is not necessary. You can still grow vegetables and herbs in vertical or hanging gardens on your balcony. Nagarkrishi makes farming easy and fun for everyone!