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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.

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Soil-less cultivation. Image source: Wikipedia

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.

  • Pritam Go Green

    If there is some technology which is helping to reduce consumption of water then definitely one should go for it. After all water level is constantly going down . we should emphasize on sustainable development.

Next Story

Find out How Coronavirus Pandemic Has Disrupted Global Food Supplies

Explainer: How Coronavirus Crisis Is Affecting Food Supply

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People wait in line to buy food amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in downtown Havana, Cuba. VOA

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted global food supplies and is causing labor shortages in agriculture worldwide. This is the latest health news.

Are there food shortages?

Panic buying by shoppers cleared supermarket shelves of staples such as pasta and flour as populations worldwide prepared for lockdowns.

Meat and dairy producers as well as fruit and vegetable farmers struggled to shift supplies from restaurants to grocery stores, creating the perception of shortages for consumers.

Retailers and authorities say there are no underlying shortages and supplies of most products have been or will be replenished. Bakery and pasta firms in Europe and North America have increased production.

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Food firms say panic purchasing is subsiding as households have stocked up and are adjusting to lockdown routines.

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Agricultural workers clean carrot crops of weeds amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a farm near Arvin, California, U.S. VOA

The logistics to get food from the field to the plate, however, are being increasingly affected and point to longer-term problems.

In the short term, lack of air freight and trucker shortages are disrupting deliveries of fresh food.

In the long term, lack of labor is affecting planting and harvesting and could cause shortages and rising prices for staple crops in a throwback to the food crises that shook developing nations a decade ago.

What’s disrupting the food supply?

With many planes grounded and shipping containers hard to find after the initial coronavirus crisis in China, shipments of vegetables from Africa to Europe or fruit from South America to the United States are being disrupted.

A labor shortage could also cause crops to rot in the fields.

As spring starts in Europe, farms are rushing to find enough workers to pick strawberries and asparagus, after border closures prevented the usual flow of foreign laborers. France has called on its own citizens to help offset an estimated shortfall of 200,000 workers.

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More wide-scale crop losses are looming in India, where a lockdown has sent masses of workers home, leaving farms and markets short of hands as staple crops like wheat near harvest.

Is food going to cost more?

Wheat futures surged in March to two-month highs, partly because of the spike in demand for bakery and pasta goods, while corn (maize) sank to a 3½-year low as its extensive use in biofuel exposed it to an oil price collapse.

Benchmark Thai white rice prices have already hit their highest level in eight years.

Swings in commodity markets are not necessarily passed on in prices of grocery goods, as food firms typically buy raw materials in advance. A sustained rise in prices will, however, eventually be passed on to consumers.

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A farmer feeds iceberg lettuce to his buffalo during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Bhuinj village in Satara district in the western state of Maharashtra, India. VOA

Some poorer countries subsidize food to keep prices stable.

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The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that a rush to buy by countries that rely on imports of staple foods could fuel global food inflation, despite ample reserves of staple crops.

Fresh produce such as fruit or fish or unprocessed grains such as rice reflect more immediately changes in supply and demand.

Will there be enough food if the crisis lasts?

Analysts say global supplies of the most widely consumed food crops are adequate. Wheat production is projected to be at record levels in the year ahead.

Also Read- Every Hospital in US May Treat COVID-19 Patients: Health Human Service Agency

However, the concentration of exportable supply of some food commodities in a small number of countries and export restrictions by big suppliers concerned about having enough supply at home can make world supply more fragile than headline figures suggest.

Another source of tension in global food supply could be China. There are signs the country is scooping up foreign agricultural supplies as it emerges from its coronavirus shutdown and rebuilds its massive pork industry after a devastating pig disease epidemic. (VOA)