Hydroponics and the Future Of Urban Farming

India’s hunger statistics are among the poorest in the world, but dismally enough India wastes Rs 244 crore worth of food a day, sending almost 194 million Indians to bed starving, daily. While most of our food is farmed and cultivated in rural areas, most of it is wasted in cities. As the report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos highlights, “As 80% of all food is expected to be consumed in cities by 2050, they have to be central to this story. Today they often act as black holes, sucking in resources but wasting many of them – the final stop in the take-make-waste approach.” As city limits expand by the year, and farming land dwindles owing to urbanisation, Hydroponics- or the simple science of growing plants without soil (Hydro means water, and ponics means labour suggesting that this method of farming does not require soil) has emerged as a sustainable alternative. One that is making a fortune for Urban dwellers. 

Credits- The Economist

°The Sustainability Effect

At a time when diminishing groundwater resources is a customary article in the news every summer, hydroponics has become popular as this method uses up to 90% less water compared to soil-based planting techniques. The magic is in the oxygenated nutrient and mineral-rich medium that these saplings are suspended in. With direct contact with nutrients now that the middleman soil is gone, plants grow faster and do not depend on the weather. Furthermore, since there is no soil, there is no need for chemicals to fertilize the medium of growth- making hydroponics not only sustainable but also organic! 


°The Ease Of It

You could grow food for 100 people using a hydroponics system, and still, be able to relocate to another state and set up your “farm” in virtually no time! Installing and dismantling a hydroponics kit is effortless compared to the nitty-gritty of farming on land. Land is a resource that is perhaps the most expensive to procure for any business. Coupled with the demands, sweat, and tears that farming requires, growing your own food was not something everyday urban people could do; that is, before hydroponics came out of the enclaves of affluent researchers and became a popular, efficient and healthy way of food production. 

Hydroponics farming also provides bigger yields as compared to regular farming, as planting indoors avoids the growth of weeds, while also getting rid of soil-based diseases and pests that cause a lot of damage to the crop. There are many varieties of hydroponic systems that can be installed depending on the scale of yield you aspire for, the amount to time and attention you can commit and the supplies needed to create a lush and healthy hydroponic farm. 

Source- Pinterest

°Things To Know Before You Grow

Without a doubt, the cost of regular soil farming is exponentially more than that of hydroponics when compared with respect to output. But before you become a pro at Hydroponics and begin to think of it as an income source, remember that albeit simple, this science requires some understanding of pH, nutrition, humidity, lighting (if you’re using LEDs or artificial lighting) and pest management. The most important thing to get started is to consider the right system that is tailored for hydroponic growing. Some apparatus you will need to ensure your plants grow to optimum health are pH meters, moisture meters, titrators, photometers, and others. There is no dearth of resources online to learn about the supplements, substrates, and nutrient solutions required for your hydroponic farm.

°A Fledging Industry In India

There are various companies in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and more, that facilitate personal hydroponic farming in residences or even help set up a large-scale hydroponic lab on demand. There has also been a boom in Indian businesses that use hydroponic farming as a means to provide fresh and local fruits and vegetables to an urban market and have become ridiculously successful by tapping into the demand for organic and locally-grown produce among high-income residents! Urban Kisaan down south, Hyderabad’s Simply Fresh, NCR’s Nature’s Miracle and Mumbai’s Herbivore Farms are just a few names out of a bubbling, self-sufficient urbane industry. 

Although Hydroponic farming, also called vertical farming in cases where the plants are stacked vertically, have been used for years in Australia, Japan and other developed countries to feed millions of people, it made headlines when Dubai’s Emirates Airlines announced that they will create the world’s largest vertical hydroponic farm- a 130,000-square foot, $40 million that is a joint venture between agri-tech firm Crop One Holdings and Emirates Flight Catering, suppliers of approximately 225,000 meals every day from its base at the Dubai International Airport.

°Some Frailties

While the absence of soil lends Hydroponics its benefits, the same translates into threats for your plants in the case of negligence. Simply put, plants flourishing on the nutrient dense solution can wither and die quickly in case of any chemical imbalances, or worse, technical failures. If you do not invest adequate time in learning the technical aspects of growing hydroponically, including the nuances of temperature and light control- you may lose an entire batch of crops. Planning,  constant supervision, and improvisation are sure to give you long-term benefits. 

°Hydroponics- The Time To Arrive

This phenomenal alternative to traditional farming methods has been embraced globally, as we face a worsening food crisis every year. Post-globalization, even our food supply chain has become a complex knit of producers, retailers and buyers who are sometimes thousands of miles away. While this has brought exotic fruits and food to our homeland, this practice of buying food that is not local, causes both the local economy and environment to suffer. The boom of Hydroponics in urbane locations, tackles perhaps the biggest complexity of food economics- transporting it long distances, packaging it and ensuring it does not perish on the way. By making the business of growing food locally, cities may be able to redeem themselves in the future, by becoming self-dependent as farms as we know them, change from vast green lands to vertical towers of organic and sustainable goodness- occupying little space, but feeding large masses. 

Credits- Global Warwick

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