By Shivendra Singh,
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has made everyone housebound. Right after the announcement of the lockdown, people rushed to grocery stores to stock up shelf-stable items like packed, frozen food and other essentials. That’s when many Indians realised the need for nutrition, health outcomes of food and how vulnerably it is dependent on supply chain and climate change.
On the other hand, scientists are stressing over the past decades that human actions are pushing life towards disaster. The steep surge in the demand for food production, transportation and processing are putting enormous pressure on the planet. According to the World Economic Forum, the global population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, making the requirement of food 60 percent higher than it is today. The report also suggests that there will be a shortage of arable land to meet this burgeoning demand for food production.
The anticipated scenario of food requirement and shortages spurred many Indians to consider planting vegetables in their backyard or rooftop. This has enabled people to invest in high tech urban farming systems and produce fresh vegetables more efficiently.
The Revolution of Hydroponic Farming
Agriculture in India has always been governed by variables – weather, quality of soil and seed, availability of water, skilled labour, etc. Additionally, the increase in food production in India has always been at the expense of the water supply. As per the estimates, around 70 percent of the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture, on the other hand, 70percent of water contamination also comes from agriculture. With the integration of technology in agriculture, it has become easier to grow food in cities through urban farming or high-tech hydroponic farms. This is becoming key to improving nutrition and dealing with the disruptions in the food supply chain.
Hydroponic has been around for decades but with the efforts of new-age agritech startups, it is evolving into innovative urban farming methods. Hydroponic farming which simply means growing fresh vegetables and fruits in nutrient-rich water instead of soil requires less space and resources. Based on modernised techniques, soil-less farming results in higher productivity in a controlled climate and with no risk of the attack of the pests and insects. Agritech startups in market are providing every possible support for hydroponic farming set up. For the first time in India, few agritech startups are providing Buy Back option for the hydroponic produce as well as Bank Gurantee. It will further boost the hydroponic farming technique in the country.
Given the present ‘stay at home’ scenario, hydroponic farming is gradually becoming a household trend in India.The hydroponic systems are designed in a way that provide healthier, fresh and more nutritious produce with longer shelf life. The technology helps in saving valuable water, land and labour resources that further creates an efficient ecosystem. Moreover, the controlled growing system enables the production of food with no use of harmful chemicals resulting in 100 percent residue-free farming.
Immunity has become the new buzzword
The pandemic had made it necessary to understand the importance of adequate nutrition to maximize their health, boost immunity and reduce the risk and impact of the virus. Having a strong and resilient immune system is the need of the hour. Thus, the devastating aftermath of the pandemic should be a catalyst to expand our taste, knowledge and awareness and contribute to building a more efficient and sustainable food system.
Usually, human beings underestimate the power of good choices and individual behavioural change in creating a healthier food system. Adopting a hydroponic farming system helps align the food habits with the wellbeing of the planet and helps people turn from being ‘junk foodies’ to genuine chemical-free food lovers. As a result, it helps consumers become more concerned about the environment and reshape their eating habits to reduce the vulnerability of the disease.
Hydroponic farming is thriving in India. One of the major factors driving its growth is also the technology curve that diminishes costs and helps in scaling its operations. Further, integration of Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics measure important indicators that help in food/crop planning and hence help connect in the food security ecosystem. Besides the technological factors, the need for creating a smarter and green market in highly populous nations also creates space for hydroponic farming (rooftop or vertical farming) to grow as a trend.
(The author is Founder, Barton Breeze, India’s Fastest Growing Commercial Hydroponic Farm Specialist. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)