Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Can this technique address the issue of malnourished children of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions? Despite being a food surplus nation, it is ironical India still faces numerous deaths due to hunger and the highest malnourishment burden. Moreover, climate change, use of excessive chemicals and high amount of wastage act as a catalyst to the danger that manifests itself as a threat to food and nutrition security, apart from being a health hazard.
Revisiting past—quest to rest
As with many other fields, we are once again looking at the past to find a solution to our present problems. An increasing trend in this regard is the reintroduction of kitchen gardens. However, modern-day living with its congested habitats does not provide a conducive environment. Enter hydroponics- a classical solution to a modern problem, which is fast catching up across urban and rural India.
Hydroponics was practised several centuries ago in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Floating Gardens of China. Due to the focus on soil-based agriculture, it was sidelined over the years. Hydroponics uses mineral-infused water to grow plants without soil. ulaunch got in touch with Pune based Maker’s Club, started by Mr Rudrarup and his wife, who have been popularizing hydroponics for the past three years. He also conducts workshops, independently and in collaboration, to generate awareness about this method.
Despite being a food surplus nation, it is ironical India still faces numerous deaths due to hunger and the highest malnourishment burden.
High time, big need
While eating the food on your plate, filled with greens and all the nutritious vegetables,
Do you ever wonder why you keep getting sick?
Or you still lack nutrition?
Why you fall ill and the doctor tells you that you’re malnourished, or if not you then your kid, even though you happily eat vegetables?
Well, not surprising but there’s something wrong with your food!
And here’s that why...
Due to the development of a high yielding variety of seeds uses of water, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, deforestation amongst others. has been increasing. The soil quality has deteriorated significantly in India and the world. Add to it the problems of land and water pollution, leaching of pollutants from landfills into groundwater, climate change and extreme weather phenomena. This results in a threat to food security and the harmful effect of chemically treated crops on all links of the food chain.
And, now you know what messed up your food.
Thus, to provide chemical-free and fresh food to his family, Rudrarup took to Hydroponics. He had some experience with it as a schoolboy in the mid ’90s. He looked for some training or courses in and near his city to know the specifics of Hydroponics for better results but failed to find any. Therefore, he took it upon himself and researched its various theoretical and practical aspects. This equipped him to generate awareness for other enthusiasts who want to take up such practices within their homes.
Making of Makers’ club
Mr Rudrarup started Makers’ Club, a venue for conducting workshops for artists and children. He regularly organizes hands-on training in hydroponics for the people who are concerned about the nutrients in the food they eat. They’re devising methods to decrease the cost of home-based Hydroponics by using PET bottles and PVC pipes. His wife oversees marketing and publicity. Due to the word of mouth publicity and workshops, they had even started receiving calls from other countries. The health benefits of consuming such home-grown vegetables are tremendous as they’re chemical-free. Since soil is not used, thus it’s easy to set up as one would not have to look for manure, fertilisers, amongst others. The yields are higher in many cases and the plants grow faster as well. It requires less water than the traditional soil-based method and the nutrient-infused water can be reused.
Hydroponics has immense potential for commercial-scale cultivation. It can reduce the cost of exotic vegetables like cherry tomatoes, lettuce, etc. which are imported currently, thus easing the import burden. Also, such cultivation can be carried out throughout the year, thus providing non-seasonal fruits and vegetables at a lower cost.
Establishing through the hurdled-path
However, there are some on-ground challenges to upscale hydroponics to commercially feasible levels. Traditional hydroponics setup is expensive. The commercial indoor setup requires power backup, pumps, pipes, sensors, artificial lights, humidifiers. Parameters like macro and micronutrient concentration, pH level, Total Dissolved Solids need to be monitored regularly. Adequate training is required along with regular maintenance and upgrades for higher yields. All these roadblocks make it difficult for the often illiterate, small and marginal Indian farmers to adopt hydroponics as the main agricultural practice.
If implemented successfully, it will go a long way in fighting hunger, undernourishment and adverse health impacts of chemical infested foods.
Becoming food sufficient via hydroponics inside the limited space of a home is not possible. Hence, ‘Plant to Plate’ concept envisages different blocks/groups of houses in an apartment complex growing particular vegetables, thus becoming self-sufficient in some of the vegetables. They have also been developing a simple and low-cost product to grow hydroponics at home. They’re also planning to shift to online mode in mid-2020 to increase their reach and scale further.
With indigenous innovation, entrepreneurial drive, ecosystem support, hydroponics can be scaled up in India significantly to address a plethora of challenges. It has the potential to unleash a new wave of environment-friendly and healthy food habit. If implemented successfully, it will go a long way in fighting hunger, undernourishment and adverse health impacts of chemical infested foods.
Article by Haresh, Team ulaunch with inputs from Saurabh Sharma.