Kandla Special Economic Zone (KASEZ) is building a vertical farm to demonstrate commercial application of aeroponics technology to farmers in the arid regions of Kutch district in Gujarat, The vertical farm will be about 20 feet in height and will be soilless.
“This aeroponics project is being implemented by KASEZ. We have 50 acres of land here, but we are doing it in a small experimental patch of five acres. The reason we are doing it in Kandla is because we want to demonstrate it to the farmers of this region that this is doable on their barren farms,” said an official from KASEZ on condition of anonymity.
Aeroponics is a soilless farming technology in a controlled environment. It allows multilevel farming which means vertical farming is possible, thereby maximising the potential of a small piece of land by up to 22 times. The height of the vertical farming can range between 10-20 feet and can be grown indoors and outdoors.
“The water and nutrient requirement in this technology is just five per cent of what a farmer usually needs to cultivate a crop. Here nutrients are administered directly to the root system. Moreover, most of the farmers have huge tracts of land, most of which is barren. The only effort that is needed is to train the farmers to manage it. So the basic purpose of this project is to change the way agriculture is done. Agriculture should be an industry with private sector playing a part. The concept that those in agriculture will starve should change,” the official added.
As per the project proposal, this aeroponics project will have 22 vertical layers which will extend 20 feet towards the sky. “One can harvest five to six crops in a year with minimal water and nutrient requirements,” the official remarked.
Aeroponics is ideal for cultivating leafy vegetables, climbers and creepers, micro greens, root vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruits. Over 150 plants can be commercially farmed through Aeroponics vertical farming. This technology helps the farmer control and monitor not only the plant development, but its health, growth and flowering. Since pesticides and soil compatible fertilizers are not used, the fruits and vegetables are free from pesticides and herbicides.
KASEZ officals said it is also simultaneously associating with the Adani Group to develop a similar aeroponics project on 100 acres in Mundra in Kutch. However, Adani Group could not be reached for comments regarding this.
The challenge with aeroponics, as with any new technology, is the cost of initial set up and training. The system requires online monitoring and controlling the flow of nutrients, lighting conditions, humidity level and air quality and so some basic training is required for farmers. Secondly, most of the existing aeroponics systems functioning in other countries are in English language and needs to translated and designed to suit the needs of local farmers.
“Once our project achieves success, we are looking for private and foreign investors and collaborators who can take this project forward to a commercial level,” the KASEZ official added.
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