The first outlet of Aroma Fresh, an innovative pesticide-free food products chain, opened in Kerala’s capital city today. Renowned actress Suhasini inaugurated the chain’s first store in Sasthamangalam and the brand was launched at a ceremony attended by Kerala Minister for Agriculture Shri K P Mohanan, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Shri Anoop Jacob and Thiruvananthapuram Mayor Adv. K Chandrika.
‘Aroma Fresh’ is a social commitment initiative of Aroma Horticulture Products Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Aroma Group of Companies that has operations in India and the Middle East. The store stocks GAP-certified, pesticide-free fresh farm products such as fruits and vegetables and other food products all of which are grown on Aroma’s own facilities using eco-friendly precision farming techniques or outsourced farms that are required to follow the company’s strict quality and production protocols.
“It is heartening to see that organic farming traditions that we had been following for ages before the arrival of chemicals-intensive agriculture is now making a comeback,” said Shri K P Mohanan, who launched the Aroma Fresh logo. “We must produce our own food and we must make sure they are poisonfree.” He said the state agriculture department is planning to brand pesticide-free food as ‘safe-to-eat’ to increase their value in the domestic and exports market and to support and encourage farmers who follow organic farming practices.
Shri Anoop Jacob, who launched the Aroma Fresh website said he hoped the company’s initiative was a key step towards Kerala achieving self-sufficiency in food production. “It is a sad fact that our state today produces less than 15% of the food it needs. Our excessive dependence on other states means we are forced to buy whatever is available in the market,” he said. “Aroma’s project is something we should be proud of; it gives us a choice to buy food that is healthy and safe.”
Adv Chandrika lauded the initiative saying a return to natural, organically grown food should help people stay healthy and keep diseases at bay. Other dignitaries at the function included Shri G S Jayalal MLA, Councillor Shri Sasthamangalam Gopan, actress Smt Suhasini, environmental activist Dayabai, film director Blessy, Kerala Agricultural University professor Dr Thomas Biju Mathew, Dr K Prathapan, Director, Kerala State Horticultural Mission, Aroma Fresh Chairman & CEO Shri Sajeev P K and Aroma Fresh Director Smt Anne Sajeev.
Besides, fresh farm produce the outlets will also stock pesticide-free pulses, millets, cereals and spices, tea, coffee, vegetable oils, produce from the wild such as honey and bamboo shoot specialties, natural cosmetics, neutral soaps, aromatic and essential oils and other lifestyle items. Aroma Fresh plans to open two more outlets in the city – one at Nanthancode and another at Kazhakkoottam – in the next two months. It plans to further add one outlet to the chain every three months. The company has tied up with the Kerala Agricultural University to carry out regular pesticide
residue content analysis on the products to ensure they are free of harmful chemicals.Aroma Fresh has 10 polyhouses of its own Kollam and linkages with eight others in Thiruvananthapuram. For farmers who do polyhouse farming, the company provides technology support and protocols for production. It offers a buy back mechanism with a premium for the zero pesticides production to farmer groups in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Shri Sajeev said Aroma Fresh plans to adopt more such modern and eco-friendly techniques in the future. “Our biggest problem today in Kerala is a scarcity of land. Resource-conserving farming techniques such as soil-less media, hydroponics and aeroponics are very much a part of our future plans,” he said. “Aroma Fresh is more than a commercial enterprise; we consider this project a social responsibility component of the operations of Aroma Group.
The company has linkages for production and value addition with different groups – ranging from the tribal community, farmers groups, women’s self help groups and corporate plantation groups. Aroma Fresh has devised an Internal Quality management system that is implemented in the farms by development organizations and NGOs. Aroma Fresh production units are GlobalGAP certified, a prominent globally accepted certification mark for Good Agriculture Practice and sustainable agriculture.
Even more stringent are the company’s own voluntary standards that include avoiding the use of pesticides and other such harmful chemicals, rainwater harvesting to replenish ground water and using sustainable production techniques and handling.
Aroma Fresh also has a dedicated R&D team conducting research and trials on various crops and has been testing modern techniques in soil fertility management, control of pest and diseases with bio-control agents, controlled pollination, irrigation techniques and traditional crop management practices and techniques.