“Hyponic farming was introduced in India around 2008-2010. The cultivation method grew quite steadily in the country, not really widespread but not underutilized either,” says Tusshar Aggarwal, co-founder of Rise Hydroponics – Future of Farming!
But a lot has changed with Covid, including India’s perception of precision horticulture. “When Covid hit we were locked down for four months. Many businesses closed and people struggled to stay afloat. This led to the realization that you should have more than one source of income. Everyone saw how supermarkets stayed open and farms continued to operate. Everyone also became more aware of the importance of healthy nutrition, which involved a complete lifestyle change. So hydroponics came into view, from a business perspective and as a constant source of fresh, nutritious vegetables.”
The two biggest problems facing Indian growers
Around that time, Rise Hydroponics began serving commercial growers. Before that, the company had spent two years doing R&D, advising hydroponic companies and building a community of substrate growers in India. “We wanted to solve the major horticultural problems in India. More than half of the workforce in our country is engaged in agriculture and horticulture, while the sector’s contribution to GDP is only about 20%. The financial situation of the majority of small farmers and growers in the country are still not stable due to two major problems: a cultivation problem and a sales problem.We want to offer growers a solution with our range of products and services such as education, precision horticulture, sheltered cultivation, hydroponics, substrate cultivation, IoT automation, cultivation guidance , market linkage, crop selection and sales and marketing assistance. We are active all over India. We have trained more than 30,000 people in the last two years.”
The Ikaria Fresh project
Rise Hydroponics has developed large commercial hydroponic projects in more than 10 states and 24 cities in India. Recently, the company completed the Ikaria Fresh project in Indore. “It’s a 1,056 square meter greenhouse with pad and fan cooling. We’ve installed an NFT system and complete IoT automation,” says Tusshar.
He explains that the temperature in India is too extreme to grow lettuce, so it is necessary to control the growing environment. “In addition, we have also placed more than 500 Dutch buckets for growing crops such as cherry tomatoes and peppers.” In the Ikaria Fresh project, more than 30 different types of vegetables are grown, such as Italian basil, lettuce, herbs, microgreens, spinach and so on.
To withstand the harsh Indian climate, Tusshar explains, the greenhouse is equipped with screens, a system of fans and cooling pads, misters and water jets that cool the greenhouse from above. The shades can be easily removed to receive more sunlight during cloudy periods. To keep everything clean and hygienic, to keep insects out and to prevent weed growth, the ground is covered with a weed mat.
“We want to solve the problems in horticulture, be it high use of fertilizers and harmful plant protection products, low quality of the harvest, damage to crops due to adverse weather conditions, lack of cultivation guidance, low grower prices, lack of food traceability and poor adequate storage conditions. We want to do this through the use of precision cultivation methods, protected cultivation, cultivation in water and on substrate, use of climate sensors, automation, market linkage, strategic relationships with buyers, traceability options, etc. We want to help growers to fully exploit the commercial potential in their business to make money while providing consumers with a healthy food choice.”
Joint venture projects
In the near future, Tusshar and Rise Hydroponics are planning a 1.2 hectare project near Jalgaon in Maharashtra. “We are doing this project in a joint venture model. It more or less means that we manage the cultivation on the land and with other people’s infrastructure. We also take care of packaging, sales and marketing. joint venture model, we run that farm for another.” There are also plans for another 6 hectare joint venture project near New Delhi, India’s capital.
So the future of water based cultivation in India looks bright and so does Tusshar. “There are many young and bright minds entering the sector who are trying to solve the problems using technology,” he says. “We don’t want to complicate it. We use technology to our advantage and make it easier for growers. Our mission is to make this kind of horticulture accessible. We help many growers who are not experts not only in specific growing methods, but also in how to run a successful commercial business.The goal is to keep the customer happy, make the employees happy and the organization profitable.We plan to develop/manage/over 80 hectares of agriculture in the next 2-3 years strategic locations across the country. “
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