Hydroponic Technology: Soil-less Cultivation to secure the Future of food
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.
In India only 30,000 hectares is under poly house or covered cultivation. The national average vegetable yield is 17 tons/Ha whereas in developed countries it is 40 tons/ha.
As per the 2014 latest figures only 17% of agricultural land is under Horticultural crops giving 270.46 million metric tons of horticulture production. The availability of vegetables per day per person is 374 grams only.
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.