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Major emphasis on turning farms to factories : Vertical Farming Workshop

Indian Council of Agricultural Research ( ICAR) in collaboration with Amity university, Noida, organised a day long workshop on vertical farming on 18 October 2018 in the premises of NASC Complex, PUSA, New Delhi. The workshop emphasised on the present status, researchable issues and way forward in the sector of vertical farming.

Monika Mondal

Indian Council of Agricultural Research ( ICAR) in collaboration with Amity university, Noida, organised a day long workshop on vertical farming on 18 October 2018 in the premises of NASC Complex, PUSA, New Delhi. The workshop emphasised on the present status, researchable issues and way forward in the sector of vertical farming. Technology which emphasise on making and developing a  business model from farms are highly peddled, and India has been trying to develop one such model and policy framework for the development of the same in the country to encourage such advancements in the agri sector.

Amidst the shrinking land size, prudent use of available land is the motto of vertical farms. Scope and present scenario of vertical farming in the horticultural sector was discussed in this one day workshop, which was attended by the researchers, academicians, scholars and industrialists from all over the country.

Dr. T. Mohapatra, Secretary, DARE & DG, ICAR made opening speech and addressed the assembly talking about the importance of inducing such a technology in India.  The program was divided in 5 themes, where in Theme 1 dignitary speakers emphasised on the status, prospects and challenges in the vertical farming sector. Theme 2 discussed about the R&D in Private sector. Fruits and Vegetable crops took attention in theme 3, while spice and ornamental crops were taken as the subject of theme 4. Medicinal crops, mushrooms and organic cultivation was the subject in theme 5.

The proceedings of the workshop along with the highlights of the speakers are given below :

Dr. Awasthi, Biotech head, IIHR, Bangalore started his presentation emphasising on the mandate of increasing per factor productivity of crops. While enough focus is rendered on the smart city projects, with a smart onus of urban agriculture , Vertical farming is in- exorbitant phenomenon. He also mentioned and quoted the names of the models which are running successfully in different parts of the country. His presentation took special attention of vertical gardens for animal husbandry where in, petite areas can be used as an excellent source for fodder.

Dr Nutan kaushik, DG AFAF Amity University speaking on vertical farming’s status, researchable issues and way forward compared the traditional farming with vertical farming, where in she derived the fact that yield per day in traditional farming is 100 times lesser when compared with vertical farming models. She also presented the examples of international models including that of the USA, Europe and few other South East Asian countries including China and Japan.

Dr K K Singh, ADG (AE) Engineering Division, ICAR emphasised on mechanisation of vertical farming’s status. He highlighted the requirement of contemporary technology in the agri sector, which the country lacks as of now. There is ample scope of IOT and digitisation of agricultural sector which he mentioned needs to be accentuated properly.

In the theme of vertical farming- R&D in private sector, Mr. S N Patil from Jain irrigation spoke about future of urban and peri urban farming systems in India and around the world. He also demonstrated various systems which Jain Irrigations work into, around the world for setting up such vertical farm modules. Jain Irrigations is one the first firms in India which started to work in the sector of technology for vertical farming and is one of the pioneer names in the agri technological sector.

Mr Prabhu Shankar, Business incubator, TNAU, Coimbatore presenting his slides on Aeroponic Cultivation threw light on the need to find specific crops which can be targeted for vertical farming. He also pointed out the shortage of skill in the country which would be required to take care of such systems. Developing the local technology and then integrating it with respect to the country’s requirement is what majorly Mr Shankar emphasised on.

Mr. Harekrishna from ICAR- IIVR Varanasi talked about status, issues and way forward in vegetable crops production through VF. He also emphasised on the concerns and requirements that VF demands for the smooth functioning of such system. He pointed to few of the start ups in the country like khetify.com, ikheti, green tech life and home crop, which are working in the modernisation of agriculture.

Dr S Rajan, Director ICAR CISH Lucknow, spoke of very less discussed topic i.e. prospects of vertical farming of fruits. He further highlighted that fruits can also be very well produced using this technology. Also the institute has developed a variety of guava called CISH - Lalit which can do wonders with this VF technology. He also focussed majorly on new species which should be completely developed with the onus of vertical farms.

Dr T Arumugam from TNAU, Coimbatore discussed about the vertical farming researchable issues, there are several subjects which needs valuable research and pondering like cost of such technology, designing, which all crops can be added as a beneficiary of this technology, pollination costs and how to raise the volume and how can we scale up the production.

Dr  Neelam Patel from ICAR-IARI emphasised on the medium for the growth of crops from VF technology. She mentioned the 4 mediums for hydroponics are : coco peat, peralite, vermiculite and sand but the proper composition and ratio in mixture is a crucial point to achieve perfect productivity from VF.

Dr R K Singh ICAR - CPRI Shimla takes his time to explain Aeroponics and its status, researchable issues and way forward for potato seed production. He also discussed about the seed production technology which can be well accomodated in vertical farming.

Dr G Suja, from ICAR CTCRI Thiruvananthapuram, discussed about vertical farming in Tropical tuber crops : Research needs and furture prospects. She also threw light on the fact that there is  dearth of scientific information for such crops. She further mentions she see a lot of potential in crops like : sweet potato, taro, chinese potato and white yam.

Dr P Manivel, ICAR-DMAPR Anand, talks about scope of medicinal plants in vertical farming. He also discussed about the present use of medicinal plants in India and India’s scope in export of such products. He also discussed about various plants which can cure many diseases and ailments.

Dr Gopal Lal, ICAR NRCSS Ajmer, focuses on way forward in seed spices. He mentioned the importance and scope of coriander, celery and methi in vertical farming including many others.

Dr K Kandiannan, ICAR IISR Kozikode, spoke of tropical spices that have huge scope with VF. He mentions there are more than 52 spices that can be grown but he discussed the top 10 which can be grown using VF including Vanilla, Turmeric, Ginger , Black Pepper etc.

Dr K V Prasad, ICAR DFR, Pune presents his lecture on floricultural crops. He started with stating the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” as the first vertical farm model from persians. He also focused on other such models which exists in other parts of the world including India.

Dr R K Dubey from PAU Ludhiana states that there is not much scientific data available on success of vertical farming but there is a lot of scope available which shrieks for the investment of research on this sector. He discussed indoor floriculture and landscape projects.

Dr Shwet Kamal,  ICAR DMR Solan, attracted the attention of audience on cultivation of mushroom using vertical farming. Mushroom contains the highest amount of protein, and he further mentioned about the variety of mushroom varieties which are available in the country, which have a huge potential in exports.

Dr S S Hebbar, ICAR- IIHR bengaluru talks about scope of vertical farming in organic cultivation. It is not possible to grow every crop organically using VF, but there are few which can have good productivity using this technology. There are few mild chemicals which can be used in this researchable area for hi tech vertical farming.

Vertical Farming needs a controlled environment for the proper growth of the crops, which is complimented with proper oxygen, light, carbon dioxide levels, along with proper nutrient management which is supplemented from eternal sources and hence is susceptible to high investments. The country as of now also requires proper market to sell such products which would be a resultant from these high investments.

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