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India’s first automated, soil-less greenhouse

The world is now waking up to agricultural practices which are environment-friendly and guarantee healthy produce. India is also channeling into this growing consciousness. We are witnessing an organic food revolution in the country. Taking this a step further, the D.S. Group has now brought hydroponic technology to India with its latest venture, Nature’s Miracle. The term hydroponics means “working water”. It is a soil-less technology for growing high-quality, tasty and healthy fruits and vegetables in a natural way.

Located in Greater Noida, the facility is India’s first large-scale fully automated hydroponic glass greenhouse. In this kind of farming, plants are grown without any soil and all the required minerals and nutrients are supplied through water. So how does this work? The roots of the plants are put in an absorbent inert medium, like coconut husk, a substitute for soil. At the Greater Noida facility, cocopeat is used as a seed base instead of soil. Completely pesticide-free, hydroponic farming is miles ahead of organic farming, as it nullifies the effects of harmful chemicals that might be present in the soil. Thus, consumers get the healthiest produce possible.

About bringing hydroponic farming to India, Ravi Kumar, co-founder of Nature’s Miracle, said, “We realised that hydroponics was the future and started exploring more about it. We wanted to bring this world-class agricultural technology to India. Initially we faced issues in terms of location, weather, consistency in taste etc. But now we are facing the bigger challenge of changing the mindset of consumers and making them try our produce.”

To this, Anchal Kumar, Partner at Nature’s Miracle, added, “These products are so healthy and fresh. The taste is consistent and they are a great option to snack on.”

The official launch of the brand was celebrated at the greenhouse over the course of three days, from 7-9 March. For the occasion, celebrity chefs Vicky Ratnani and Manish Mehrotra curated dishes using the fresh produce from the greenhouse.

Chef Vicky Ratnani talked to us about his views on this advanced agricultural technology and the importance of healthy produce. “Technology and innovation are there for the wellness of people. It should extend to the agricultural sector. You pay the farmer, and not the doctor. It’s a global cause. Knowing the traceability of products is important for us as chefs. But I think consumers should also know where the produce is coming from,” he said.

These days, health-conscious consumers are trying to embrace a lifestyle in which quality food and positive nutrition are central. They are walking away from processed foods. The vegan trend is an example to this healthy eating phenomenon. So with this increased emphasis on global health and the wellness food market, the focus is shifting towards technologies that can help produce high yields and quality products.

In fact, hydroponics has gained popularity in various parts of the world because of its benefits in terms of food security. Many crops can actually be produced twice as fast in a properly managed hydroponic system in comparison to traditional farming methods. It also decreases the time between harvest and consumption, which increases the nutritional value of the end product. The fruits and vegetables also have a better shelf life.

The hydroponic farm of Nature’s Miracle in Greater Noida is equipped with advanced Dutch technology and spread over an area of four hectares. The system is mechanised in such a way that it can control and optimise temperature, humidity, timing for irrigation and other parameters which are essential for providing plants with an ideal growth environment.

The system also uses water efficiently. It uses less than 10% of the volume of water used in regular farming, and the water not used by plants is recycled. The indoors setting agriculturists to control lighting schedules, which improves plant production without making the farmers too dependent on the seasonality factor. This system has been designed to make use of vertical space. This in turn has increased planting density, ensuring that the product’s size, weight, shape and taste are uniform and consistent round the year.

A team of expert agriculturists from the Netherlands is in charge of the growing and monitoring activities at the greenhouse. The facility is certified by Global G.A.P.

Even though hydroponic farming seems essential in these times of climate change, it has one drawback: high costs of establishing and running such a facility. However, R&D is being carried out globally to reduce the cost involved in the technology.

As far as the Greater Noida facility is concerned, one can now purchase the produce grown at the greenhouse, available under Nature’s Miracle brand. Currently, the product line includes candy tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, bell peppers, strawberries and more. These are all available across Delhi-NCR’s modern retail stores like Food Hall, Big Bazaar, Le Marche and Modern Bazaar etc.

The owners of Nature’s Miracle plan to have a digital presence for their products in the near future as well. They are also planning to expand to other regions in India. They remain hopeful that people will accept hydroponics once they manage to create proper awareness.

Photo credit: The Sunday Guardian


03/15/2019 - Rishita Roy Chowdhury/The Sunday Guardian



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