Hydroponics: All you need to know about the latest farming trend

Several celebrities like Bhumi Pednekar, Dia Mirza, Juhi Chawla, Shilpa Shetty, Mouni Roy took to gardening during the coronavirus-induced lockdown. Slowly and steadily it became trend of sorts. And in recent months, hydroponics took centre-stage. Let's find out more about this trend.

In 2017, a Mumbai based couple quit their jobs. Sakina Rajkotwala left her job at NGO Magic Bus and Joshua Lewis left ad company Directi as they were both missing a sense of purpose and wanted some time to reconnect with themselves. “We decided to pack our bags and go live in Auroville for three months and work on a farm as we wanted to get our hands dirty and also reconnect with nature,” says Sakina. They worked at Solitude Farm that also had a cafe where lunch was served using the ingredients harvested fresh off the farm the same morning.

“We ate our meals post work at the farm every day and food had never tasted better. It was always basic and simple food, but it changed everything for us in terms of our energy levels, our mood and in general our overall health. We felt happy and well,” adds Joshua. Eventually this led them to co-found Herbivore Farms in Mumbai as a way for people to enjoy fresh healthy local produce.

Resource Crunch

Some of the key aspects that govern farming include soil, space and water. Rapidly vanishing farm lands and extensive farming depleting the soil of its natural resources has led to hydroponics. Simply speaking this is a method of growing vegetables and flowers that requires no soil. Instead the seeds are placed in an inert growing media with nutrient-rich solutions that also enables reuse of water while ensuring better control of nutrients and giving

good yield.

Bengaluru-based Manikandan Pattabiraman, Founder & CEO, Hyperfarms Pvt Ltd. also known as Geekgardener in the gardening circles created 'geekgardener.in’ in 2008 as he could not find a vegetable gardening resources online for India. Today it is a trusted source for hydroponics farming in India. “Living the city, one is always on the lookout for space for gardening. I was looking for a way to grow veggies that use less water and uses very light growing medium such as cocopeat, peat moss instead of soil as it is very heavy. This led me to Hydroponics, a science of growing plants in water and other soilless growing media. I was hooked and was able to put together a system in place and started growing almost all plants. The results were very promising and to

this day it continues to be,” says Pattabiraman.

Likewise, Arjun Balaji and Vishal Narayanswamy, Co-founders started Gourmet Garden in Bengaluru as an inspired attempt to bring back original tastes and ultra-freshness into our food and do so while ensuring it is fully sustainable and safe for consumption. “Given the unmet needs of consumers and the challenges with current farming approaches, we saw the answer in global innovations around controlled environment farming. These methods involve providing the most optimum clean environment for farming, where plants are grown without soil in water and other media. We invested all efforts into solving this problem and making the Naturoponic farming model viable for India. The end-result of this inspiration is Gourmet Garden, the first full-range brand of high quality and safe produce in the country,” aver the duo.

Advantage Hydroponics

Hydroponics conserves two of the most precious urban resources — water and space and enables us to bring the farm closer to the point of consumption. “Our hydroponic method of production enables us to grow produce using 75% less water as compared to traditional agriculture through a recirculating irrigation system. Our vertical farm design enables us to upto 10 times more in the same footprint of land. Because we deliver only within our city our produce travels less carbon miles. We strictly do not use any harmful chemicals or any pesticide in our growing process,” aver Sakina and Joshua.

“Traditional farming has for very long focused only on productivity, with little attention to quality, safety, and consistency of veggies offered to consumers. With Naturoponic farming, veggies are grown within greenhouses which shield them from the elements, clean water and media are used to replace soil and contaminated water, and non-GMO seeds are used for original tastes. The produce is significantly healthier, fresher, and more nutritious than what is otherwise available,” say Arjun and Vishal. Hydroponics is a wonderful technology that has great potential in food production.

Hydroponic Variants

Leafy greens: Spinach, Coriander, Methi, Lettuce, Basil, Kale, Bok Choy, Mint

Vegetable crops: Tomato, Cherry tomatoes

Lettuces: Lollo Rosso, Lollo Bionda, Summercrisp, Butterhead - Red & Green, Green & Red Oak, Green & Red Romaine, Black Rose

Swiss Chard: Red, Yellow and Mangold

Herbs: Peppermint, Lemon Basil, Purple Basil, Sweet Scented Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Thai Basil, Dill

Edible flowers: Calendula, Sweet Williams, Pumpkin Blossoms, Nasturtium

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