Population explosion, drastic climate change, and the commercialization of the farming sector leading to the wear and tear of soil, the future of the country’s agricultural scenario looms gloomily above us. This is not a mere hypothesis but an actual fact. The fifth report of US-based The Global Harvest Initiative predicts that by the year 2030, agricultural production will only meet 59 percent of India’s total demand. On the other hand, a NITI Aayog report suggests that the country’s water demand will be twice the supply implying severe water scarcity. Two problems that seem almost insurmountable.
Do not worry, we have a solution! Exclaims 25-year-old Vihari Kanukollu from Hyderabad who has embarked on a mission to change the face of farming. His “farming fields”, however, will be in an urban set up.
With the help of ‘Hydroponic Farming’, a technique largely practiced in Europe and America, he hopes to reduce the burden on traditional farmers by helping urban dwellers grow their own food.
Breaking down the concept of hydroponic farming in simple terms, Vihari says that this technique uses 95 per cent less water and the food can be grown in any climate or location without soil.
It was during Vihari’s stint in the Finance sector in 2017, when he learnt about hydroponic or vertical farming. Talking to The Better India (TBI) about the trigger that set him on this path he says,
Though I was preparing for a career in finance, I was always concerned about social issues that impact the society at large. In 2017, I came across a report that underlined the increasing gap between demand and supply of food in India.
On researching further, the grim statistics and minimal steps taken to resolve issues startled him.
It was during the same time that he met Dr Sairam, a scientist and a family-friend, who was practicing farming in his own backyard. After conducting a series of successful experiments on hydroponic farming, the duo decided to launch their own company. Srinivas Chaganti, Vihari’s relative got on board to deal with the Internet of Things (IoT).
Thus, was born UrbanKissan, a company aiming to integrate the concept of ‘In My Backyard’ in sustainable farming.
When asked if the hydroponic method of farming is a threat to traditional farming in any way, Vihari says, “No, in fact this type of farming is an add-on to the traditional method. This is for people who want to grow their own food. Our project aims to unburden the traditional farmers by making urban dwellers contribute to the process.”
How To Be An #UrbanKissan
‘I want to grow my own food but in a hassle-free manner? I cannot grow food because I lack expertise, time and space’
If you ever had these thoughts that deterred you from farming, worry not. With help and guidance from the UrbanKissan, you can now grow fresh produce including lettuces, herbs, greens and exotic vegetables round the year. These can be grown anywhere – from rooftops to balconies.
The company offers a range of options, from a model kit of 18 to 36 plants. The kit consists of seeds, coconut waste and a mix of nutrients.
Once you place an order according to your preference, the company will assist you in choosing the site and delivering logistics.The staff will come to your house and help you set up the farm.
After the farm is set up, all you need to do is take out a couple of minutes from your busy schedule every day to water the crops.
“The main role of soil is to provide rich-nutrients to the produce. We broke down these nutrients and prepared an ingredient with it. The seeds can be sown inside the coconut waste and water can be supplied from below. It requires less manual work and is a one-time investment,” says Vihari.
This method allows you to harvest and consume the produce within the same day. This way you get the benefit of fresh produce that is not only nutritionally rich, but also available all year round at a consistent quality.
Among the services provided by the start-up, the feature of marketing customer’s produce is something that the company is leveraging on to encourage indoor farming.
The scalability of this project is from individual households to commercial spaces. If a customer is willing to produce enough to be able to sell in the market we provide our assistance, adds Vihari.
So far, the trio has been successful in setting up 8,000 plants across five states. “After I read articles about heavy metal contamination in green and leafy vegetable that causes cancer, I decided to grow food in my own balcony. UrbanKissan helped me set a kitchen-garden in my house and now I know what I eat is safe and fresh food,” says Lasya, an Urban Kissan in Bengaluru
An Effort To Reduce Food Wastage
As per a World Economic Forum report, India’s annual food requirement is 230 million tonnes and the agricultural output is 270 million tonnes, which means that close to 40 million tonnes of produce is wasted each year during production, processing, retailing and consumption.
From spoiling of food to retailers stocking extra, there are several reasons that are responsible for India’s food wastage problem. We have come up with a solution where the food is produced according to customer’s demand, says Vihari.
The trio is currently developing a vertical farm in the heart of the bustling city of Hyderabad.
The first commercial vertical plant being developed at Jubilee Hills Road No 36 has the capacity to produce 50,000 crops (10 tonnes of yield per month). The farm, spread over 2,000 sq feet, will yield vegetables equivalent to 70,000 sq ft in traditional farming, points out Vihari. In other words, almost an acre of produce is grown in the size of an apartment.
Explaining the concept of vertical farming in Hyderabad, Vihari says,
One can walk in and order growing vegetables and watch the entire process of harvesting.They can take back with them fresh produce that contains no pesticides or harmful chemicals.
Sharing the company’s future plans, the trio aims to make major cities that lack space like Mumbai sustainable. They plan to set up vertical farms in these cities and help bridge the demand and supply of food.
“We’re re-thinking what agriculture looks like in a world where water is scarce, people live in cities waking up to the dangers of pesticides. We want to ensure that everyone has access to safe food by building more farm next to where people live. With our produce we want to have a positive impact not only on our health, but the health of the world,” says the trio.
Want to know more and take a sustainable step? Get in touch with UrbanKissan: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)