1. Success Story

UP farmer earns Rs 8 lakh annually with pearl farming

Abha Toppo
Abha Toppo

34-year-old Bijender Chauhan is a farmer from Dhampur village in Bijnor district, Uttar Pradesh. Bijender is basically a sugarcane farmer but since a long time, was struggling in getting good returns from it.  He also grows mustard and pulses such as moong but the income from it is just as uncertain as the climate.

Hence two years back, he made a decision that helped turn all his losses into an added source of income and this was with the help of pearl farming. Today, Bijender earns an additional annual income worth Rs 8 lakhs.

And interestingly, pearl farming is not his first exposure to aquaculture. When Bijender realized that agriculture just can’t get good returns, he took up aquaculture for additional earning. He used to breed freshwater fishes, created aquariums and sold them in the market.

With 13 years of vast experience in aquaculture, he wanted to establish a business of his own that was not constrained to fish farming. So he started searching for options in Facebook and YouTube and came to know about pearl farming. He then contacted the local Krishi Vigyan Kendra for help wherein he was told that nothing like pearl culture actually existed.

Without wasting much time, Bijender again started searching in social media when he came saw a video by a Nagpur-based National Pearl Farming Training Institute. So he contacted Bhuwanbhai Patel, who runs the institute and went there for two-day training. After coming back from Nagpur, he dug a pond in a 3-bigha plot in his village.

He said the best thing about pearl farming is that it requires minimum labour and is very profitable. Moreover it can be done in a 10×10 feet pond. After digging the pond, you can either use shells from a local water body or purchase them from a supplier at Rs 5 per piece. You only need to spend on the feed for the shells and nylon ropes.

Bijender further added that “Once you get the shells, let them adapt to your pond for at least 8 to 10 days. Immediately working on them can cause increased mortality. Also, it is best to use shells within a 60-km radius of your area, since it is easy for them to adjust in the water around their source area.”

After feeding the shells, they are hung on to a nylon mesh for 9 to 24 months and sometimes even 36 months. Remember that the designer pearls with custom designs need grafting on the outer layer of the mollusc and round pearls need grafting on the inner layer. One shell will produce two designer pearls in 9 to 12 months and the ideal round pearl requires 18 to 24 months to form. Also one oyster will produce just one pearl.

He also told that if you sell these pearls in the wholesale market, you will earn Rs 200 to Rs 250 per piece. So if you have around 1000 shells and by any chance 500 of them die, you still have 500 pearls which will bring you one lakh rupees after sale.  

In the beginning Bijender too faced some problems but today he has four big ponds - 165×65 feet and 70×25 feet, consisting of over 15,000 shells.

Apart from working his farm, Bijender daily spends 2 hours in pearl farming and grafts shells in batches. He also has 5000 more shells in storage for the upcoming season. With his pearl farming gaining momentum, the farmer estimates an additional income of Rs 10 lakh in 2018.  And now he also helps small as well as marginal farmers in starting pearl farming through demonstrations and workshops.

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