Things are looking up for the greenhouse produce market in India. "We see an increase in demand in the Indian market, especially in many cities where we supply", says Sachin Darbarwar, founder of Simply Fresh. Last year, the grower invested $30 million in expanding the greenhouse operation, and that investment appears to be paying off.
"With more awareness on hydroponic farming and more emphasis on food safety, consumers today are selective in their buying and prefer produce, which is clean, safe, and traceable", Sachin tells us. "With the current global scenario and special focus on health and immunity, we only see this demand increasing in future."
Sachin and Shweta Darbarwar, founders of Simply Fresh
Simply Fresh not only supplies its produce to the local market, however: "We have exported our produce to the UAE, and will shortly resume our exports to countries like the UK, USA, and South East Asia."
So they look across the border, and not just when it comes to exporting their produce. "Our greenhouse structure was designed and delivered to us by Cravo, a Canadian company that specializes in retractable greenhouses", Sachin tells us. They source their seeds from various domestic and international suppliers as well, like Rijk Zwaan. "Depending on crop type we reach out to different vendors to get the best variety of seeds to have high-quality produce for our consumers."
Under their nutraceutical vertical, Simply Fresh grows varieties of medicinal plants. "These have three times more alkaloid content than field grown plants, and serve as raw material for nutraceutical companies", Sachin explains. "The choice to grow these has been a successful move as we are able to provide medicinal plants which are traceable and with higher alkaloid content, which reduces the cost of extraction. Also, all our fresh produce and medicinal plants are safe, traceable and grown using sustainable farming techniques without any use of pesticides."
It's been a bit of a pioneering project to grow those "non-traditional" greenhouse crops: "They are very challenging as globally there are not many growers who have grown this and can share best practices/knowledge on how to grow them and how they behave without soil", Sachin tells us.
Farm in A Box
Like any modern grower, Simply Fresh also makes use of AI, having implemented it in creating data points and making decisions on data points. "For example, we use AI in forecasting yield, predicting seeding charts, space utilisation, traceability, managing crop workflows and knowledge line."
The Farm in A Box (FiAB) platform, developed by the grower, plays a central role in this strategy. "It helps us track everything from the very initial stage of sending, plant profiling, monitoring plant health and nutrient level requirement at each stage of the plant growth.
"We also use the same FiAB platform to plan and forecast the yield required for future and for our internal CRM management, to collect and process orders received from different vendors from various cities."
The company is constantly developing the platform, and in future FiAB may become available for other growers to use as well.
That's not the only thing they have in store for the future: Simply Fresh will be further expanding, growing to 40 acres on their current site in Phase 2 of the expansion.
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