“You are what you eat,” they say. And that’s what Ajay Naik, a Goa-based hydroponic farmer, believes in. After quitting his job and giving up his company, this software engineer decided to help farmers across India learn about hydroponics and the use of technology in agriculture.
“For several years I have been noticing that many farmers’ children prefer to go for an MBA or engineering degree these days instead of taking up farming. This is because agriculture is not always lucrative. But then, not many of us are focusing on the root of the system we live in – that is good quality food. Only when you have healthy food can you have a healthy country,” says Ajay Naik, a Goa-based software engineer-turned hydroponic farmer. In times like these when the younger generation of farmers choose to opt for anything but agriculture, the case of Ajay would seem to be a paradox of sorts. The 32-year-old has turned to hydroponic farming in an attempt to grow quality food because a lot of vegetables and fruits supplied to markets today are grown using harmful chemicals that are detrimental to health.
He believes that the right use of technology can improve a field’s produce but the problem is that Indian farmers are already struggling with finances and are reluctant to take risks “They fear that if their investment in technology does not work out, it may lead to huge losses,” he says. Ajay wants to change the equation by taking technology to as many farmers as he can. And that is where hydroponics comes into the picture.
Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in water with added nutrients without the use of soil.
What attracted Ajay towards this form of agriculture is that it limits the use of chemicals. After initial research he came to know about a person in Pune who has a doctorate in plant nutrition and manages a hydroponic farm. Ajay met him, saw his farms and learned as much as he could.
Fully equipped with the required knowledge, Ajay started his farm two months ago in Karaswada, Goa. With a team of six people, he now grows exotic vegetables like lettuce and salad greens using the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT). This is a hydroponic technique in which a shallow stream of water containing nutrients for plant growth circulates past the bare roots of plants in watertight cylindrical tubes also called channels. The water flows from one end and is re-circulated into the system from the other end, thus reducing water consumption by 80% when compared to traditional farming.
Since there is no soil involved in the process, there is no need for pesticides. Ajay has set up his system in a vertical farming model with racks that have seven levels to save space.
“Producing food nowadays is becoming a real challenge. With the increasing population, water scarcity, and the ecological impact of transportation, hydroponics is the best choice for commercial as well as home-based farming. Among many advantages, hydroponics allows you to produce more (20 to 30%) high-quality vegetables and fruits, save on water and nutrient consumption, and grow fresh food everywhere – including sterile and unproductive lands, or in big cities and capitals. It helps cutting down on expensive intermediaries and shipping costs,” he concludes.
First appeared on TheBetterIndia