“We started Tripathi Group because we wanted to do something new in Nepal’s Agriculture field and help Nepali farmers,” recollects Thakur Tripathi, the Managing Director of Tripathi Group. And they have certainly hit the proverbial nail in the head with their venture. Tripathi Group aims to supply disease free, organic, high quality, cost effective products like banana saplings, mushroom spawn, potato seeds and black rice. The livelihoods of a majority of Nepali population depend on farming; therefore, a good local source for seeds and saplings has huge impact potential.
Eight years ago, Dr. Giriraj Tripathi, Chairman of Tripathi Group, was one of the first people to sell black rice in Nepal. Four years later black rice was still considered a niche market, but Tripathi Group followed his footsteps. Right now, Thakur Tripathi proudly reveals that, they source black rice “from 35 districts in the hilly regions of Nepal from around 150 farmers, and sell it under the company’s brand.” After four years of selling black rice the company is expanding into new markets. As a joint venture with the Government of Nepal, Tripathi Group is opening a banana tissue culture laboratory in Chitwan. “We have been contracted to produce banana saplings for Chitwan, but the same varieties can also be grown in other parts of the Terai and in some parts of the Parbat region like the Trisuli Valley.” Thakur Tripathi further disclosed.
Bananas are a lucrative crop in Nepal; 234,319 tons of Bananas are cultivated annually in about 14,311 hectares of land. Using tissue-cultured banana saplings greatly help the farmers, since such saplings give disease free plants with high yields and uniform growth ensuring uniform harvests. Thus, the production of high quality banana saplings could greatly reduce the need to import the saplings from India. “There is a huge demand for good quality banana saplings, and the market hasn’t been able to meet this demand” explained Thakur Tripathi. Presently, they can produce ten varieties of banana saplings, but, only seven are commercially viable. Tripathi Group is in the process of finishing its laboratory in Chitwan, but they already have customers lined up for when they start production next year. At least a hundred thousand banana saplings will be bought by the government, the local government/co-operative has already placed an order for twenty thousand saplings and other big farmers have also contacted them. “The hundred thousand banana saplings will be distributed by the government to smallholder farmers at a subsidised rate. 75% of these smallholders are women. Thus, we will indirectly help them to have a stable source of income.”
In the months when banana saplings are not in demand Tripathi Group will use their laboratory to produce mushroom spawns and potato seeds. “Right now, mushroom farmers in Chitwan get spawns from Kathmandu or Pokhara, but producing them closer can make them accessible to more farmers”. Tripathi Group will start producing spawns as per the local demand, but they plan to branch out into medicinal mushrooms as they expand. Additionally, like banana saplings, the demand for good potato seeds is far higher than the supply. Since, potatoes can be grown in Chitwan and the Terai it made sense for them to pursue this endeavour.
Apart from saplings and seed production Trapathi Group also plans to offer soil testing services in the future. Many farmers do not test the soil and the government cannot afford to offer soil testing to all. Thus, by introducing this service Tripathi Group hopes to create a positive impact by making it possible for farmers to know and cultivate the most suitable plant in their soil.
Tripathi Group has many services to offer, which is only feasible through expansion. Via the Rockstart Impact program, they hope to receive investments that will allow their company to grow. “In order to be able to produce a million banana saplings we will need to double the capacity of our lab,” acknowledged Thakur Tripathi.