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Hydroponic Technology: Soil-less Cultivation to secure the Future of food

The global hydroponics market is projected to reach USD 395.2 million by 2020, at a CAGR of 16% from 2015 to 2020.

With increase in population, the demand-supply chain in India is strained. Due to constant change in economic and social structure, the supply food is under threat. Researchers have found out a tool that leads to soil-less cultivation, which will secure the future of food. Bahrain-based K.V. Bhaskar Rao, CCA, American Society of Agronomy spoke to NewsGram sub-editor Deepannita Das over Skype to explain how hydroponic technology has become blessing in the field of agriculture.

  • Agriculture in India is a 370 billion dollar sector– but there is little use of technology to improve its productivity. Around 2 billion dollars of fruit and vegetables are wasted because of lack of supply chain management and cold storage facilities and 40% of it gets wasted in transit, according to 2014 reports.
  • India has approximately 8000 refer trucks capable of transporting fresh produce. Food inflation in India is growing at 7%, due to supply demand mismatch. This inflation translates into an additional 70,000 crore rupees opportunity.
  • According to the data collected in 2010, India uses 91% of available water for irrigation and livestock, 2% for Industry and 7% for municipalities. Out of this, 49% of water is used from ground water sources and by this excessive exploitation water table is receding at 3 to 10 feet per year.

Related article: How Startup India can bring positive changes in agriculture sector

The food services market in India was estimated at $48 billion in 2013 in a study by the National Restaurant Association of India and Technopak. In five years, that could be worth $78 billion – that is nearly what the Indian IT industry currently exports.

  • While volumes are picking up, restaurant owners are looking to cut import bills and chefs are exploring ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the dishes they create. Air transport of food implies higher energy consumption resulting in carbon emissions.

Exotic lettuce grown in India could be 30 per cent cheaper than the imported ones. Imported cherry tomatoes can cost Rs. 1,000 a kg whereas the domestically produced ones could be priced at Rs. 200.

  • Demand-driven exotic vegetables production is suitable for the farmers as they have assured market through contract with consumers. Exotic vegetable market is growing at the rate of 15 to 20% per annum is increasing day by day since India is importing more than 85% exotic vegetables.

Cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Pune are practicing soil-less cultivation in large farms. Apart from that people in other cities are going for roof tops to do the same, said Bhaskar.

Here, the concept of Hydroponics and Controlled environment agriculture comes into play.

The science of hydroponics refers to the process of growing vegetables or fruits, without using actual soil. Despite the fact that all plants grow in soil naturally, it’s actually not the best environment for them.

 

 K.V.Bhaskar Rao, (hydroponic guru) CCA (American Society of Agronomy)
K.V.Bhaskar Rao (left) hydroponic guru, CCA (American Society of Agronomy)

THE METHOD-

Hydroponics is broadly classified into two main categories based on the growing medium:

  1. Solution Culture: this system employs various techniques of growing. It may be Static, continuous flow (NFT = Nutrient Film Technique), Ebb & Flow, DWC (deep water culture), Aeroponics, Fogoponics, rotary etc.
  2. Medium culture: this system uses an inert porous medium and is termed as passive Hydroponics. Media may be like gravel, Perlite, rock wool, coco peat/husk etc.

 Adjiedi Bakas, the Dutch trend watcher, speaker and author of “Future of food” mentions urban farms based upon hydroponics will be developed in megacities. By 2050, 80% of people will live in cities. Food and agriculture become more industrial than ever yet the small markets for seasonal & locally produced food gains popularity amongst elites & becomes more profitable.

The global hydroponics market is projected to reach USD 395.2 million by 2020, at a CAGR of 16% from 2015 to 2020.

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