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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
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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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  • 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.

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Farmers To Grow Modified Cotton With Its Seed Edible

Many of the world’s roughly 80 cotton-producing countries, especially in Asia and Africa, have populations that face malnutrition that could be addressed with the new plant

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Cotton
An experimental cotton plant is shown at a Texas A&M research facility in this handout image provided by the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in College Station, Texas, U.S. VOA

U.S. regulators have cleared the way for farmers to grow a cotton plant genetically modified to make the cottonseed edible for people, a protein-packed potential new food source that could be especially useful in cotton-growing countries beset with malnutrition.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Tuesday lifted the regulatory prohibition on cultivation by farmers of the cotton plant, which was developed by Texas A&M University scientists. The plant’s cottonseed cannot be used as food for people or as animal feed yet in the United States because it lacks Food and Drug Administration approval.

Cotton
Cotton plant. pixabay

Cotton is widely grown around the world, with its fiber used to make textiles and the cottonseed used among other things to feed animals such as cattle and sheep that have multiple stomach chambers. Ordinary cottonseed is unfit for humans and many animals to eat because it contains high levels of gossypol, a toxic chemical.

With financial help from a cotton industry group, scientists led by Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant biotechnologist Keerti Rathore used so-called RNAi, or RNA interference, technology to “silence” a gene, virtually eliminating gossypol from the cottonseed. They left gossypol at natural levels in the rest of the plant because it guards against insects and disease.

“To me, personally, it tastes somewhat like chickpea and it could easily be used to make a tasty hummus,” Rathore said of gossypol-free cottonseed.

After cottonseed oil, which can be used for cooking, is extracted, the remaining high-protein meal from the new cotton plant can find many uses, Rathore said.

Cotton
If all of the cottonseed currently produced worldwide were used for human nutrition, it could meet the daily protein requirements of about 575 million people. Pixabay

It can be turned into flour for use in breads, tortillas and other baked goods and used in protein bars, while whole cottonseed kernels, roasted and salted, can be consumed as a snack or to create a peanut butter type of paste, Rathore added.

If all of the cottonseed currently produced worldwide were used for human nutrition, it could meet the daily protein requirements of about 575 million people, Rathore said.

Other countries would have to give regulatory approval for the new cotton plant to be grown, though U.S. regulatory action often is taken into consideration.

Also Read: Food Cooked on The Barbecue Can Impair Your Lungs

The new cottonseed’s biggest commercial use may be as feed for poultry, swine and farmed aquatic species like fish and shrimp, Rathore said.

Many of the world’s roughly 80 cotton-producing countries, especially in Asia and Africa, have populations that face malnutrition that could be addressed with the new plant, Rathore added. (VOA)