From working in concrete Jungles to Creating a One on his Own
From working in concrete Jungles to Creating a One on his Own | Credit: TED

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From working in concrete Jungles to Creating a One on his Own

Sep 07, 2018

Shubhendu Sharma’s company, Afforest, is credited with building 33 forests in a span of 2 years in 11 Indian cities. In the past, Sharma was employed as an Industrial Engineer with Toyota company. During his stint with the giant car manufacturer, he worked as a volunteer with Akita Miyawaki, a naturalist, to grow a forest at the company’s plant where he worked. Here, he learned about the Miyawaki technique that was previously implemented in the Amazon and Thailand. After learning the technique, he decided to replicate the model in India.

Credit: Iodonna
Credit: Iodonna

Shubhendu Sharma is the founder of Afforest

As part of Afforest’s forest technology, saplings are grown and can convert any 1000 sq ft of land into a maintenance-free forest within a year or two.

Sharma started the Afforest company in the year 2011. Before starting his firm, Sharma conducted some experiments to make the technology compliant with Indian standards. His first success came with building a blossoming forest in his home backyard in Uttarakhand, all within a year. Then, he became more skilled, confident and that led him to quit his job with Toyota. After conducting further research on the technology, he went ahead and established his organisation. He took the help of few friends to draft the business plan and implement the same.

Sharma’s initiative was to develop native forests. Only for the first initial years, the saplings have to be tended to and thereafter, the forests become self-stainable and do not require any maintenance.

Plant saplings in your backyard

Presently, there are around 10 members in his team and they operate out of Bangalore. At the start, they had difficulty in getting clients. But soon, they got their first order from a German-based furniture company to grow 10,000 trees, and managed to keep themselves afloat. Over time, Afforest managed to garner more than 40 clients and managed a strike rate of planting over 50,000 trees.

Afforest’s Forest-building Model

Afforest adopts two methodologies. First, they are service providers in Project Execution and Management Services; the package deal involves offering tools, resources, materials, equipment, and labour for carrying out an afforestation project via the Miyawaki method. Second, the company undertakes project management and consulting services for their clients.

Credit: Thebetterindia
Credit: Thebetterindia

At the start of any project, the company conducts an extensive survey of the soil and determines the soil’s quality. Thereafter, the varied native plant species are surveyed. Following the surveys, the saplings are organised in a nursery and also, the soil’s fertility is increased by mixing with biomass.

During the end stages of the project, different varieties of native plant species are planted on the given piece of land and at a density of 3–5 square per metre. Then, for the subsequent 2 years, the forest is watered and weeded. Thereafter, the forest does not need any maintenance measures and becomes self-sustainable.

Transform your backyard into a Forest

Sharma takes the decisions on the ratio, pattern, and sequence of the saplings—for them to grow at a speedy pace. Taking an average, through Sharma’s model, each sapling grows by around 2 metres every year.

The distinctive feature of Afforest is the company’s low-cost model. The rates charged by the company are Rs 150 per square foot—which is much lesser than the Miyawaki model.

As compared to traditional forests, Sharma’s afforestation methodology helps to grow denser forests. Also, there is considerably lesser dust and noise reduction through his method. Moreover, the new methodology absorbs higher amounts of carbon dioxide than the customary methods.

The Company’s Initial Challenges

In the initial stages, the challenges that the company faced were to launch a model that had no existing market. Also, not everybody is open to developing their backyard into a forest. Moreover, there was only limited available information on the technology. However, to get clients was, by far, the most difficult part—according to Sharma.

FINALLY

Shubhendu Sharma’s technology boasts of being superior to conventional afforestation technology. Also, his model is pocket-friendly. His efforts are commend-worthy and sure needs to given the due recognition.