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Growing hydroponic without any experience: "the secret lies in the formula"

Karma Lam Dorji’s tech-driven poly-house Bhutan L-Farm, in Ngabiphu, Thimphu, grows more than nine varieties of lettuce and herbs. In a year, Karma can harvest crops four times. If grown in soil, the maximum cycle is twice a year.

“No dirt, no digging, weed, or pest. I don’t have to worry about weather fluctuations. The greatest advantage is that I don’t need helpers,” says Karma Lam Dorji, who started the project without any farming experience.

Karma started hydroponics when four Agriculture Research and Development Centres (ARDC) in the country were performing their first-ever hydroponics trials.  It all began with a chance meeting with a friend in Delhi, India not so long ago who happened to be a hydroponics expert and consultant.  What began as a pastime activity is now a serious venture.

The secret lies in the nutrient mix, what Karma calls the “formula”, which is not shared among hydroponics users. Karma had to study expansively about hydroponics system, from farm size to nutrient requirements. The ready-made nutrients supplied by Envirevo Agritech to ARDCs have no specification of the type of plant nutrient and their content percentage.

“Knowing what nutrient and quantity is required by the plants is thus very challenging,” an ARDC official said.

Karma’s farm operates on deep-water technique (DWT).  In this system, foam floats on the nutrient-fed water. Holes are pierced through the foam for planting.  Water circulates through pumps in the system, which allows mixing and distribution of nutrients. To create oxygen, there is a fountain. There are heaters and fans for air circulation.

Bhutan’s agriculture is dependent on monsoon rain.  With changing weather and climatic conditions, water shortage is already a major issue in the country, especially in rural parts. Studies have suggested that impacts of climate change are likely to add to the burdens of farming.

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