Agriculture is known as the traditional occupation of India, and does provide livelihood for over 70% of the rural population. Although the study of agriculture is advancing with the times, there are still some problems of agriculture that are hard to overcome, which is where hydroponics comes in as a viable alternative in India.
To understand what kind of benefits hydroponics in India provides, it is useful to list some issues with traditional agriculture, and how they can be eliminated by hydroponic farming.
Problems of Conventional Agriculture:
Usage of water:
Traditional farming requires consistent and abundant supply of water. Water shortage has always been a problem in India, especially for the last few years, with the sporadic monsoon cycles across the country.
Soil and Environmental conditions:
Not all kinds of soil are suitable for cultivation. The land available may not be compatible with certain crops, or industrial exploitation may render it barren and infertile. In India, especially, good fertile land is hard to come by near urban areas, and hence any attempt at farming would have to be far from the city.
Use of pesticides:
Pests are a pesky problem in farming. Constant care is needed to control pests from getting into the crops. Without a controlled environment, like in a greenhouse, they can attack easily. Plants also tend to be disease-prone without the proper measures, which ends up wasting the crop and loss of time and resources. So for economic viability, it pesticide use is a must. On the other hand, the use of pesticides also does damage to crops, if not monitored correctly.
Long Farming cycles:
Traditional farming cycles can last for months, and without the guarantee of a successful yield. Even if pest, water, and environmental conditions are somehow brought into control, there is chance of a low yield, which thereby means that time, effort, and resources are wasted. Also, in a typical cycle, transplantation of crops, i.e. relocating the plants as it grows to better conditions, is nearly impossible. Once ruined, replanting crops takes a long time. All these factors also make crop rotations difficult to maintain
Need for resources:
Various resources are needed for conventional farming, such as tractors and other machinery, watering apparatus, cattle, manual labour, etc. Upkeep of these materials is also expensive and time-consuming. In addition, there has been little technological advancement in making farming equipment more efficient.
Long Supply Chain:
In India, the facilities for storage of crops can be inadequate, thus putting at risk a successful yield. Agricultural land is situated far off from cities, transporting crops can be expensive, and skimping on the process can lead to loss of crops.
Conventional farming is an overcrowded space, with competition on every level, from purchase of seeds to selling the end product.
Lack of control in traditional agriculture is one of the biggest reason for the above mentioned factors. Also, agriculture is responsible for 25% of green-house gas emission. Technological advancement to reduce carbon footprint in necessary for a sustainable future.
Advantages of Hydroponics:
After understanding what issues conventional farming brings, the next step would be to find solutions. Hydroponics, as a method, provides viable alternative which does allow for avoiding some of the above problems.
1. Less water usage:
Hydroponics does call for use of water, but the quantity can be controlled. Wastage of water, as we know, is a big problem in India, but it can be reduced to a significant extent through hydroponics. A massive advantage is that water used in this technique can be recirculated, thus preventing excess use or loss. Any loss of water is only through transpiration or evaporation. Hydroponics uses 90% lesser water when compared to conventional agriculture.
2. No need for soil:
Hydroponics essentially means soil-less farming. All the problems that the soil brings in farming ̶ compatibility, fertility conditions, industrial abuse ̶ are completely out of the equation in hydroponic farming.
3. Pesticide Free
Hydroponics is done in a controlled environment, eliminating the chance of a pest attack. Although constant vigilance is required to make sure pests don’t get access to the crops, which is always a possibility, it is safe to assume that certain kinds of creatures which are usually found in or near soil are unlikely to be a problem. Also, the need for aggressively using pesticides is also eliminated.
4. Short Crop cycle and More Yield:
The crop cycle (planting of seeds to harvesting of plants) is shorter in hydroponics than conventional farming. It is great for herbs, leafy greens and micro-greens. This is possible by transplantation, which is not possible in conventional farming. There is every chance of a good yield, but if things go sideways, the process can be started again quickly and without having wasted too much time and resources. Another advantage of hydroponics is growing crops vertically. The number of crops harvested per area is higher in hydroponics than traditional agriculture.
5. Resource efficient:
Hydroponic farming doesn’t require the same resources as needed in conventional farming, such as cattle or equipment. However, there are other materials needed for hydroponics, which require some investment. But overall, hydroponic resources prove to be much more efficient.
6. Short Supply Chain:
Hydroponics is a great method for urban farmers. No use of soil means that it can be done right in the city, and it is logistically-efficient as well. The transport of crops, and direct delivery to the market/customers becomes much more simpler and cheap.
7. Untapped market:
In India, hydroponic crops aren’t available in abundance in the market, and there is a knowledge barrier as well. Hence, there is great potential for growth in the hydroponic farming sectors in India.