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Will hydroponics scale in India?

While hydroponics helps in saving water, land and water resources, experts believe using the right tech to negate the impact of higher upfront costs is the need of the hour.  

The increased demand for fresh and chemical-free food in cities has led to a boom in urban farming in India. Hydroponics, a method of farming that involves growing plants without soil, in particular, is currently being used by many startups including Barton Breeze, UrbanKisaan, Pind FreshTriton, Living Food Co and Kaze Living Agro2o, among others. 

Many venture capital firms that invest in agritech startups have shown heightened interest in these startups lately. A key reason is hydroponics uses 95 per cent less water, and claims to be 20-40 times more efficient.

Problems hydroponics addresses
With the increasing population, the water usage in agriculture is also constantly increasing. Around 70 per cent of the world’s freshwater is today being used for agriculture. Moreover, in India, more than 50 per cent of the population doesn't have access to safe drinking water and because of this, about 200,000 people die every year. The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 and water scarcity is expected to increase. Hydroponic technology claims to keep up with food production by offering a sustainable way to grow crops without soil and using vertically stacked layers while reducing water usage by about 90 per cent.

Hydroponic technology, according to experts, can save water, land and labor resources. Especially, in an urban and peri-urban context, where space is available at a premium, hydroponics goes a step further and solves for this constraint as well since it eliminates the need for available soil, and allows multiple layers of farming in a relatively confined space.

“Part of the success of any farming operation has historically been linked to the ability of a farmer to respond to biotic and abiotic influences during the crop cycle. Examples of biotic influences include disease and pathogens, and examples of abiotic influences include temperature and sunlight. Protected farming, of which hydroponics and aquaponics form one part, deals with the challenges posed by external stimuli by choosing to control biotic and abiotic parameters instead of responding to them,” said Reihem Roy, partner at Omnivore.

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