Vellangallur (Thrissur): The whole village thought Bindhya was weird. Who else would ever think of growing plantain saplings in bottles? The concept was unheard of in the village of Vellangallur in Thrissur. But then they sat up when Bindhya’s saplings grew and started sprouting leaves -- all from within small bottles. Today, the tissue culture centre named Plant Mill Lab which Bindhya set up is of much interest for farmers.
The mini-lab, which has been set up at her home at Vellangallur, is in fact built on the foundation of Bindhya’s know-how in the subject.
Bindhya Balakrishnan is now famous for her tissue culture lab which grows precious varieties of banana including the Chengalikkodan. Research is nothing new to this researcher, an M Tech in biotechnology. Her interest in tissue culture lab was stoked by Prof S Seeni, who headed the research team at Bindhya's workplace in Chennai. As she was initially beset by several apprehensions, the concept stayed dormant with her for quite some time.
The concept of tissue culture lab came up again when her husband Vijesh, who was into an IT job in Chennai, had to relocate to Kerala. Her plan got going when Bindhya got an interest-free loan of Rs 9 lakh from the Kerala Financial Corporation to set up her lab. The lab came up on an initial investment of Rs 10 lakh. What got her interested in the Chengalkkodan banana variety was the news that farmers were making a beeline to the Kerala Agricultural University at Mannuthy to source tissue culture varieties of the banana plants.
The reports that previous attempts to raise Chengalikkodan saplings via tissue culture were futile did not deter the young researcher from forging ahead with her ideas. She sourced its mother cell from Erumapetty, which is home to the Chengalikkodan banana variety. Her efforts bore fruit when she succeeded in raising healthy, strong and sturdy young plants. What worked to her success was the help rendered by Jose Varghese, a retired deputy director of the State Horticulture Mission.
The Chengalikkodan success spurred Bindhya to try out another popular local variety, the Manjeri Nendran.
The Plant Mill Tissue Culture Lab is an all-woman venture as five of of its employees are local women. Apart from providing them a source of income, Bindhya is quite happy that she has given them an exposure to the latest in science and technology. Bindhya now aims to expand her lab so that more research in tissue culture could be conducted. She believes such efforts would create more job opportunities for more women in the area.