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Vertical Farming In India, How To Start, Crops


Vertical Farming In India

Introduction on how to start vertical farming in India: India is the most populous country. India is developing every day with something new. Also, industrialization is growing dramatically, putting many arable lands at greater risk. Vertical farming is the answer to all these problems in India. Vertical farming is the cultivation and production of crops/plants on vertical layers and vertical slopes. Vertical farming is defined as the process of cultivating crops in vertical layers. It can be a very promising source for the future as space can be used to produce large quantities of vegetables and fruits.

Vertical farming is a modern way of maintaining our agricultural practices. In India, it is mostly polyhouse based farming. Polyhouse farming is a safer method that produces more vegetables and fruits throughout India. Environmental control in vertical farming to keep the environment under complete control LED lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, sensors and smart software, Internet of Things (IoT), drones, Includes growing crops vertically using technology such as mobile apps. Crops are grown indoors in vertical farming, under artificial light and temperature conditions.

A step by step guide on how to start vertical farming in India, crops suitable for vertical farming, advantges of vertical farming, and systems, types of vertical farming

Growing plants vertically
Growing plants vertically (Image source: pixabay)

Compared to traditional farming methods, vertical farming uses significantly less water and pesticides. Being indoors, the crops are not subject to the seasons and therefore yield more throughout the year. Lettuce, tomatoes, and green crops can be grown through this exercise. It is the process of growing crops in vertical layers in a controlled environment. It not only reduces the need for water but also increases productivity and increases the ability to grow a wide variety of crops. However, in addition to the many other benefits, there are some issues with vertical farming.

Vertical farming is an agricultural process in which crops are grown on top of each other instead of traditional, horizontal rows. Growing vertically allows protection in space, resulting in higher crop yields per square foot. Vertical farms can control environmental conditions for plants to thrive.

Why is vertical farming advantageous?

More than 80% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. And the demand for food will increase, and that too in an effective way so that people can grow and get food in the cities. And this is possible through vertical farming. By using 40% less electricity, 80% less food waste, and 99% less water use and produce crops twice as fast compared to outdoor fields.

Vertical farming can streamline food production efficiently and sustainably, save water and energy, boost the economy, reduce pollution, create new jobs, and restore the ecosystem. And provide access to healthy food. In a controlled environment, crops will be less susceptible to infection, nutrient cycle, crop rotation, contaminated water flow, pesticides, and dust. Vertical farms also use advanced technologies and deep farming methods that can increase yields rapidly. It provides an opportunity to support the local economy.

Plants can be grown indoors, with or without soil, under vertical cultivation, which ensures protection from uncontrolled winds, constant rains, and dry climates. Important environmental elements such as light, temperature, humidity, and micronutrients are controlled to improve plant growth. Vertical farming can be done in water-scarce areas as well as in urban areas as it can be set up in small plots. Domestic food production has long been considered an ideal way to help feed a growing population. Vertical farming facilitates more crop cycles than traditional methods. Fruits and vegetables grown in vertical farming are fresh, nutritious, and safe because they are grown in a controlled environment with minimal exposure to pollution.

The general structure of vertical farming  

The vertical farm intends to use fully artificial light or should consider both artificial and natural light. The same issues need to be considered in facility design.

There are two options

  • LED (Light Emitting Diode) or
  • HPS (High-Pressure Sodium)

When choosing crops to grow, consider which plants can be best grown indoors. Due to height restrictions, it is difficult to grow inside plants that grow on trees such as Bananas, Olives, Avocados, and Nuts. But, there is another opportunity to grow tree crops and that is to grow them in the outdoor area as much as space is provided. Thus more than three dozen varieties of vegetables can be selected for indoor hydroponics. Now the most common products grown in vertical fields are Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cabbage, Eggplant, Green Onions / Chives, Black Spinach, and Cucumber.

Advantage of vertical farming in India

In case if you miss this: Future Trends In Agriculture.

Advantage of vertical farming
Advantage of vertical farming (pic credit: pixabay)
  • Year-round crop production.
  • Eliminates agricultural flow.
  • Significantly reduces fossil fuel consumption (transport machinery and crop transport)
  • Uses useless or unused properties.
  • No weather-related crop failure.
  • Vertical farming is a high yield.

We can plant crops in vertical farms at any time of the year and therefore produce according to the needs of the market. Because production is done in a controlled environment with natural nutrients, we get a standard crop. Production of food throughout the year without the risk of natural catastrophes such as flood, heavy rain, uneven rain, hail and snowfall, drought, extremely high temperatures, cold waves, pests, and diseases, etc. It reduces the cost of transporting grain loads from rural to urban areas and minimizes the damage. From village to city, agricultural production has also declined significantly.

Vertical farming uses 70 to 95% less water than conventional farming. Vertical farming requires 90% less or no soil and thus no need for pests and diseases. Pesticide-free or organic food is prepared because there is no use of pesticides. Due to the shortage in the food supply chain, consumers get fresh produce with its original nutritional properties.  High yield per unit area i.e., about 80% more crop per unit area in vertical farming. It will green urban areas and help reduce rising temperatures and air pollution, mainly in cities.

Growing and year-round crop yields – Vertical farming avoids large-scale disruptions due to the weather. These are protected from extreme weather conditions like rain, monsoon, hail, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and wildfires. Also, indoor vertical farming protects plants from extreme heat and cold. The internal temperature can be adjusted at any stage of plant growth, from seed germination to fruit ripening. Humidity can also be controlled, which ensures the successful germination of seeds.

The light level can also be controlled with automatic artificial light. It is also easy to control the water level, which makes irrigation very easy. As a result, outdoor flooding or drought does not affect the plants inside the vertical garden.

Vertical farming prevents pests and diseases – Vertical farming makes the chances of pest infection very low. As long as the vertical field is allowed to be strictly controlled, pests can be avoided. Fewer pests and easier control mean farmers can also avoid the use of pesticides. This makes it easier to grow pesticides and fertilizer-free fruits and vegetables with vertical cultivation. Fresh production costs should be reduced as vertical farming gains momentum. Because vertical fields use techniques that grow without soil, the chances of spreading diseases from the soil are also very low. In winter, many plant diseases survive in the soil and affect next year’s crops. Though, this problem is eliminated in vertical fields that use hydroponics, aquaponics, or aeroponics system.

Because vertical farming is usually done indoors, the risk of contamination of many types of pests is also low. Take special care not to bring insects inside, almost the chances are zero that insects will have a chance to enter the vertical system. As a result, the absence of pests will increase crop yields as plants can grow better without being harmed by pests. Water-saving.

Stable crop yields – One of the major benefits of vertical farming is that it ensures a fairly stable crop yield. If everything is in perfect order, it is very easy to estimate how many vegetables and fruits can be harvested in a given period. It is easier to make long-term agreements with grocery stores as vertical gardening will stabilize crop income and revenue streams.

Another major advantage of vertical farming is that it is well watered. Because it is a closed system, more than 95% of water can be saved compared to traditional outdoor farming methods. As such, it makes vertical gardening a great way to save water. This will be especially important in the future as water will become scarce due to global warming, especially in the southern hemisphere of our planet.

Light requirement for vertical farming

Light is the most important point in vertical farming. When it comes to indoor farming, there are some options to mimic natural light. Vertical farming requires powerful light to grow crops. Fluorescent lights are most commonly used to grow herbs and vegetables indoors. There are two types, including fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).

They can easily fit in tight spaces and provide a powerful light and save more energy than incandescent bulbs. HPS grow lights or high-pressure sodium lights are used by many commercial farmers. They dissipate a significant amount of heat, so when it comes to the distance between crops and light, it is important to ensure proper measures. LED grow lights are the most energy-efficient of the three basic types. They also do not produce heat that can damage crops.

The downside of LED lights? The cost is high and can pose safety risks if proper eye protection is not provided.

Growing medium for vertical farming

Vertical farming systems can use a variety of growing means to harvest their crops. Hydroponics uses a soil-free system to immerse plants in a nutrient-rich solution. The solution must be circulated and monitored to ensure proper chemical composition.

Aeroponics uses soil and very little water to grow plants. Aeroponics in vertical farming was developed by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA). The most effective way to grow is to use water mist on plants and roots. They are said to consume the most nutrients and vitamins.  The best crops used in aeroponics are Lettuce, herbs, and strawberries.

Aquaponics combines fish and plants in a single closed ecosystem. In this system, the fish grow in indoor ponds and the plants use the nutrient-rich waste as food for the fish they produce. This creates a thriving system for fish and plants to grow together. Many kinds of fruits and vegetables can be grown effectively from goldfish, tilapia, carp, sunfish, bass, and many more. All growing sources depend on the type of crop and the amount of produce.

Is vertical farming expensive?

Making vertical farming under polyhouse is a one-time cost and it is a modern agricultural industry that gives us annual production as well as production. So if calculate the annual profit for 24 years, vertical farming is very cheap. It’s a one-time investment in infrastructure. The crop we grow is turmeric and according to the yield we get from the polyhouse, we get back our invested money within 1.5 years which we have spent on asset building.

Need for vertical farming 

Increasing demand for food due to the growing population and decreasing arable land is the biggest challenge. High-yield farming methods that support our large populations are characterized by the use of our limited freshwater, fossil fuels, and limited soil reserves. Vertical farming is urban farming of crops inside a building in a city or city center, with the floor designed for specific crops. These heights will serve as the arable lands of the future and create nations that have little or no arable land, replacing the countries that are currently cultivating in the highland lands. Vertical farming provides an alternative source of sustainable food production units for today’s urban needs and future generations. Food production is just the beginning. These vertical fields will recycle gray water and black water, generate electricity by burning plant waste which will reduce waste into its partial molecules, and obtain water by dehumidification. Though, every urban center gets one or several thus cutting way down on food miles.

Systems of vertical farming in India

Hydroponics

This is a way to increase the food in the water using the mineral nutrient solution without soil. The main advantage of this method is that it reduces soil-related farming problems such as soil-borne insects, pests, and diseases. In hydroponics, crops grow in a nutrient-rich water basin and the water is re-circulated, resulting in better performance and lower water consumption.

How about this: How To Start Poultry Farming In Canada.

Growing Lettuce Hydroponically (Image credit: pixabay)
Growing Lettuce Hydroponically (Image credit: pixabay)

Hydroponic farming is highly adaptable to farmers’ needs and production and requires low cost and scalable expansion. These include methods such as water culture, ab and flu, the nutrient film technique, and the wick system. A hydroponics system is a method for growing plants without soil. Plant roots are immersed in liquid solutions containing macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as trace elements, including iron, chlorine, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, and molybdenum in hydroponics. In addition, inactive (chemically inert) mediums such as gravel, sand, and sawdust are used as substitutes for root support.  The advantages of hydroponics include the ability to increase yields per area and reduce water use. Hydroponic farming uses less water compared to conventional farming. Because of these advantages, hydroponics is the largest system used in vertical farming.

Aeroponics

In aeroponics, there is no growing medium and therefore, there are no containers for growing crops. In aeroponics, mist or nutrient solutions instead of water. As plants are tied to support and roots are sprayed with a nutrient solution, it requires very little space, very less water, and no soil. In this, crops are repeatedly sprayed with nutrient-based mist, using timers (no soil, no sunlight, and no water). In this way, the nutrients are delivered directly to the roots of the plants, and this method saves water and also reduces labor. Also, crops can be easily harvested.

Aquaponics

It is a bio-system that integrates recycled aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponic production of vegetables, flowers, and herbs to create symbiotic relationships between plants and fish. It achieves by using nutrient-rich waste from fish tanks to “fertilize” hydroponic production beds. Hydroponic beds work as bio-filters that remove gases, acids, and chemicals. So, the freshly cleansed water can be recirculated into the fish tanks. As a result, fresh and clean water can be re-circulated in fish tanks.

It is the practice to cultivate both fish and plants. Fish provides beneficial nutrients and bacteria to plants, and as a result, filters the water for fish. This method creates a highly productive and balanced ecosystem with enormous benefits. Nutritious wastewater from fish tanks is filtered through a solid removal unit and then transported to a biofilter, where toxic ammonia is converted to nutrient-rich nitrate. By absorbing nutrients, plants then purify wastewater, which is recycled back into fish tanks. Furthermore, plants use carbon dioxide produced by fish, and water in fish tanks heats up and helps the greenhouse maintain its temperature at night to save energy۔. As most commercial vertical farming systems focus on a few fast-growing vegetable crops, aquaponics, including an aquaculture component, are not currently as widely used as conventional hydroponics.

How vertical farming works

There are four key areas in understanding how vertical farming works;

1. Physical configuration,

2. Lighting,

3. Growing medium, and

4. Sustainability characteristics.

Vertical farms consist of one of several models, ranging from wooden shelves on the garden patio to warehouses and greenhouses that are capable of producing enough food for entire communities, in buildings such as skyscrapers.

  • Firstly, the main goal of vertical farming is to produce more food per square meter compared to other farming systems. To this end, crops are grown in vertical layers in the tower’s life structure.
  • Secondly, the combination of natural and artificial light is used to maintain the perfect level of light in the room for growing crops. Technologies such as rotating beds are used to improve light efficiency.
  • Thirdly, instead of soil, aeroponic, aquaponics, or hydroponic growing sources are used. Peat moss or coconut husk and non-soil medium are common in vertical farming.
  • Finally, this uses different sustainability features to meet the energy cost of farming. Vertical farming uses 95% less water.

Feasibility of vertical farming in India

India is the largest producer of vegetables, fruits, and many other agricultural products. Vertical farming has been introduced in India. Small-scale adaptation of vertical farming has been observed in Nadia, West Bengal, and Punjab, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya has found Nadia has found initial success in growing brinjal and tomato. Punjab has also been successful in producing potato tubers through vertical farming. More and more startups in vertical farming are coming to India.

Crops suitable for vertical farming

With the high demand in the international market, we have chosen to grow turmeric through vertical cultivation. That produces 5% curcumin in turmeric in Polyhouse, which is eligible for export. Another characteristic of turmeric is its shelf life. Nothing will happen to this crop for 3 years, once it dries and we have the technology, through which we can preserve it for 6 years.

India produces 82% turmeric (less than 3% curcumin) in the world. Domestically, it is mainly used in powder form. So in the future, we can start production of 5% Curcumin Turmeric Powder which will be a big business, which has not started yet. Vertical systems are used for growing leafy vegetables such as Basil, Coriander, Lettuce, Thyme, Spinach, and Gerbera, etc.

Lettuce – Lettuce and some other green leafy vegetables are grown mainly by indoor farmers. Lettuce is easy to grow and available in many varieties, it is easy to grow, and in year-round demand.

Kale – Kale is richer in iron. Also, it is delicious and available in many varieties. Kale vegetables can be a great choice for vertical farmers.

Chard and collard greens – These leafy greens are not very popular but can grow quite large under suitable conditions, and can be grown partially several times, each time growing back with a larger yield.

Basil – Basil is also an ideal crop in vertical farming. Basil is available for a few months as it is sensitive to cold temperatures, but in vertical farming climate-controlled conditions, it responds very well and is rich in oils and flavors.

Chives and mint – These are the best crops to start for a new vertical farmer. They are easy to cut due to their dense, grass-like growing structure. And their distinctive tastes also make them popular with customers.

Limitations of vertical farming

There are both advantages and disadvantages to vertical farming. The main limitations of vertical farming are as follows;

No Established Economics – The financial feasibility of this new method of farming is uncertain. The financial situation is changing, however, as the industry matures and technology improves.

Difficulties with Pollination – It takes place in a controlled environment. Thus, the process of pollen needs to be done manually, which will be labor-intensive and expensive.

Labor costs – The higher the energy costs in vertical farming, the higher the labor costs due to the centers where wages are higher, as well as the need for more skilled labor. However, automation in vertical fields may require fewer workers. Manual pollination can be one of the most laborious tasks in vertical fields.

Too Much Dependency on Technology – The development of better technologies can always increase efficiency and reduce costs. But whole vertical farming relies heavily on different technologies for light, temperature retention, and humidity. Losing power for just one day can be very costly for a vertical farm. Many people think that the technologies used today are not ready for mass adoption.

The future of vertical farming

With a growing population and urban population growth, vertical farming is expected to flourish in the coming years. In addition to the lack of sustainable land, vertical farming that can produce year-round and keep it in its local markets will move the market in favor of such a system. It will also provide many green options for our population as less deforestation is required and waste is much more favorable.

Vertical fields are free from the pressures caused by extreme conditions and variations in our weather, are isolated from pests, and allow crops to grow over a wide range of latitudes. These systems use much less water than conventional agriculture and can dramatically increase crop yields compared to hydroponics. It can protect crops from bad weather conditions or disasters. The same year-round weather conditions provide ideal conditions for the best crops. Vertical farming produces food where needed.

Disadvantages of vertical farming

The initial huge cost to establish a vertical farming system is a major issue. This will include the cost of building structures with its automation such as computerized and monitoring systems, remote control systems, programmable LED lighting systems, and climate control systems, etc.

Excess nutrients used in vertical farming can interfere with the central urban water system and cause pollution if left untreated.

LED lighting systems emit heat even though a small amount will cause problems in maintaining the temperature, especially in the summer months, and can overload the air conditioning system which will again cost energy.

Commonly asked questions about vertical farming in India

Is vertical farming effective?

Vertical farming is an efficient and sustainable technology. It has many advantages over traditional farming. The most important thing is that farming is under your control. Control means controlling production, maintaining quality, preventing diseases.

Is vertical farming beneficial?

Yes, it is a profitable and beneficial business.

Can you do vertical farming at home?

Vertical farming at home takes up very little space. A closet, kitchen corner, or an incomplete basement can be the perfect place to start a vertical farm. You will want the ability to control the temperature as well as provide artificial light, water, and fertilizer.

Is Vertical farming healthy?

Vertical farming is one of the fastest-growing methods and it has many benefits. The important health benefits for fish farming are fresh food, increased urban availability, reduced pollution, and no chemical use.

What light is used in vertical farming?

Initially, vertical fields used fluorescent lights to help crop growth. However, with the development of LED light technology, fluorescent lights are slowly replacing new, energy-efficient bulbs. The best practice is to use pink lights, a combination of red and blue LED lights.

Is vertical farming the future?

Vertical farming can help increase food production and agricultural activity.



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