At a time when hydroponics remained unknown to Indian farmers, Madhya Pradesh’s Arvind Dhakad saw soil-less farming for the first time in Israel in 2013.

He learned that he could get eight times the production from the same space with the hydroponics method.

Arvind was so fascinated by hydroponics farming that he decided to adopt the practice in his village Riyavan in Ratlam, which is well known for cultivating traditional crops like garlic and soybean.

Without any formal training, he along with his brother Ravindra started cultivating crops hydroponically.

As nobody in the region knew about hydroponics, Arvind decided to set up a hydroponic unit on his own with faint memories from the Israel trip.

For starters, he bought a few 110 mm PVC pipes and cut them on his own.

“I did not know how to cut the pipe in the first place. I did not know how to arrange them in grids, how to drill holes in pipes to make holders for net pots, and how to add nutrient mix in the water tank,” he says.

Anyway, he managed to assemble the pipes. He then planted saplings in cocopeat in net pods, added water-soluble nutrients to the water reservoir, and turned on the water supply.

“It was a success! All my 500 saplings survived,” says Arvind with pride.

Today, Arvind grows a wide range of seasonal vegetables, fruits, and flowers — including tomatoes, capsicum, broccoli, anjeer (fig), and strawberries in his 8,000 sq ft hydroponics setup.

Gradually, the brothers developed a hi-tech nursery and introduced techniques like the NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) system and aquaponics towers to grow tubers. With this, they earn up to Rs 10 lakh annually.

More than commercialising the produce, Arvind focussed on training city residents through demonstrations.

Every month, the brothers organise a paid two-day workshop to train farming enthusiasts. So far, they have helped at least 7,000 people learn the hydroponics method of cultivation.