Vertical Farming: A Revolutionary Approach to Agriculture in India

Vertical Farming: A Revolutionary Approach to Agriculture in India
Vertical Farming: A Revolutionary Approach to Agriculture in India

As one of the country's most important economic drivers, India's agricultural industry is a vital cog in the wheel of the Indian economy. However, primarily due to urbanisation and industrialisation, the amount of cultivable land decreases as the nation's population rises. The majority of Indian farmers are already working on very small plots of land, and any further reduction would be a death sentence for them. But now, this problem has a clear answer in vertical farming, which, with the help of modern technology, has the potential to revolutionise India's agricultural sector.

According to the World Economic Forum, innovations in production technology have brought the concept of vertical farms within reach, making them a viable alternative to farming methods that rely on pesticides and fertilisers. The number of vertical farms in the United States has reportedly surpassed 2,000. These farms can outperform conventional outdoor growing methods while reducing water usage by 70% to 95% and can fit inside areas like buildings or shipping containers. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) discovered that different fruit crops in the Delhi region could save about 25% in water and 30% in fertiliser by using the drip fertigation method.

Researchers at Research and Markets predict that between 2021 and 2026, the vertical farming industry in India will expand at a CAGR of over 20%. As mentioned in the research, vertical farming systems based on hydroponics account for most of the market share because of their efficiency and cheap operating costs.

Types of Vertical Farming Solutions Gaining Traction
Vertical Farming Crops That Generate A Profit
Government Promoting Vertical Farm Culture

Growing Up: How Vertical Farming Works

Types of Vertical Farming Solutions Gaining Traction

The vertical farm setup comes in various techniques and sizes per the operations' requirements. Currently, there 8 to 9 setups that are most popular in India, such as Vertical Farms in buildings, Container Vertical Farms, Underground Vertical Farms, Hydroponics, Aquaponics, Aeroponics, Rooftop Greenhouses, Soil Based Vertical farming, etc. Using technology in operations such as irrigation, crop monitoring, data collection, spraying of insecticides and pesticides, etc, has enabled cultivators to increase their output by going through precise data collected by installed sensors.

The National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research revealed that, depending on the technology employed, the cost of establishing a vertical farm in India can vary between 50 lakhs to 1 crore rupees per acre. Everything from lighting and irrigation systems to fertiliser solutions and the cost of constructing the vertical farm structure are necessary for crop growth.

An annual operating budget of 5–10 lakhs rupees per acre is typical for vertical farms. Everything from power to water to labour and other inputs needed for crop care and harvesting goes into this total.

The Indian vertical farming industry is highly competitive, with major competitors such as Fresher Underwater Farms Private Limited, Future Farms LLP, Triton Foodworks Private Limited, and Altius Farms Private Limited. These businesses aim to increase their market share by forming strategic alliances and creating cutting-edge technology.

Vertical Farming Crops That Generate A Profit

Certain crops can provide handsome profits to vertical farmers. Crops such as tomatoes, strawberries, mushrooms, peppers, etc., can strike the right chord for farmers. However, a vertical farm in India can grow various crops, not limited to the ones listed above. Demand, weather, and resource availability are some variables that will influence crop selection.

Since vertical farming allows cultivators to cultivate crops without soil, it has opened a gate for people living in deserted areas. Using technology such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics, they can cultivate crops by installing a set-up in their location.

Hydroponics - Various aggregate substrates and growing media, including vermiculite, coconut coir, or perlite, are utilised in hydroponics, a method of plant cultivation that does not use soil but nutrient solutions based on water. Commercial enterprises, amateurs, and small-scale farmers all use hydroponic production systems.

Introduction to Hydroponic Farming System and its benefits and uses
The advanced model of sustainable farms operates on the science of hydroponic farming, a soil-free farming technique. It is a system of growing crops without soil, often called soilless farming.

Aquaponics - Hydroponics and aquaculture, or fish farming, are combined in aquaponic farming. In this system, plants clean the water for the fish, while the fish fertilise the plants with their excrement. Both grains and fish can be efficiently and sustainably produced in this way. Even in densely populated cities, residents can enjoy a steady supply of locally grown produce and seafood thanks to aquaponic vertical farms.

Aeroponics - One method of cultivating plants that do not require soil or other growing medium is known as aeroponics. A nutrient solution or aerosol of nutrient solution is misted or sprayed onto the plant roots at regular intervals while they are suspended in the air.

Market Share of Vertical Farming Worldwide, by Technology
Market Share of Vertical Farming Worldwide, by Technology

Government Promoting Vertical Farm Culture

Considering that most companies engaging in vertical farming businesses are startups, it is of utmost importance for the central and state governments to support these new budding entrepreneurs. Given the promising future of vertical farming in India, the federal and state governments have taken measures to encourage farmers to use it.

Initiatives such as  Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), National Horticulture Mission (NHM) and StartUp India are rightly aligned to provide needed fodder to these companies. With PMKSY, the government aims to latch on to the water-saving advantages of vertical farming, which is why it is actively promoting the use of precision irrigation systems and aims to improve agricultural water efficiency.

Similarly, with NHM it plans to provide financial assistance for the establishment of poly houses and shade net houses, which can be utilised for vertical farming purposes.

Lastly, StartUp India was created to strengthen and promote India's startup scene. The Indian government hopes to turn the country into a startup nirvana with this flagship programme. The federal and state governments are working hard to ensure that all aspects of this enterprise are in sync, and they are speeding up the policymaking process to achieve this goal. This includes offering financial assistance to entrepreneurs and connecting them with mentors.

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What is vertical farming?

Vertical farming is growing crops in vertically stacked layers indoors, often in buildings or shipping containers.

What crops are profitable for vertical farming in India?

High-value crops with good demand, like tomatoes, strawberries, leafy greens, and peppers, are popular. However, crop selection depends on market demand, climate control capabilities, and resource availability.

How much does it cost to set up a vertical farm in India?

The cost varies depending on technology and scale. Estimates suggest a range of 50 lakhs to 1 crore rupees per acre for establishing a vertical farm, with an annual operating budget of 5-10 lakh rupees per acre.

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