COIMBATORE: Driven by the dire need for food and an all around drought-like situation in several places with failing rains and a depleting water table, researchers have been trying various methods of farming to increase crop yield with minimum investment and water requirement.
A Coimbatore-based agri-engineering graduate K Prabhu Sankar, with the support of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) and a city-based agricultural technology developer, has brought Aeroponics farming system for commercial crops, after a trial period of two years. They claimed that after the US and European countries, this commercial type of Aeroponics farming is the first initiative in the country.
Every day, 900 kg of vegetables of 18 varieties which include tomato, brinjal, ladies finger, beans, carrot and potato, are produced using 30,000 sq ft space under the Aeroponics farming system located at Sengodampalayam near here.
Aeroponics is a process of growing plants in an air and mist environment, without the use of soil. The set-up would be housed inside a green house structure, with a state-of-the art refrigeration system. A completely closed greenhouse with 40 per cent sunlight penetration, 60 per cent sunlight diffusion, covered ground with mounted, automated pulse irrigation and automated climate management are salient features.
Sankar had developed the Aeroponics system in 2013. After a study to standardise the farming method for the climatic condition, he formulated procedural calculation in 12 parameters such as room temperature, relative humidity, carbon-dioxide level, sunlight intensity, shadow effect, water temperature, water nutrient and PH value in water.
“Around 6,000 litres of water would be enough to cultivate 900 kg of vegetables a day. Water would be sprayed intermittently at the root of the crops the whole day. The crops absorb only 2,000 litres as a top up, and the remaining water would be recycled,” he said.
The net result is a 10-time higher yield from one unit area, which justifies the capital investment. “Though this type of farming already exists in developed countries, we could not adopt them in our agricultural system directly because of the variation in climatic conditions. It has taken almost two years for making the unit functional,” he said.
He said the trial and error identification and mitigation of the same over the past two years in a big commercial set-up has made the plan stronger. He also thanked the staff of the Agri Business Development Cell of the TNAU for their support in rendering technological and funding assistance in setting up the system at `55 lakh.
R Murugesan, Director of Agri Business Development of TNAU, said, “We have been giving promotional support to them. Recently, we organised a conference with 35 business heads.”