Soilless agriculture is the process of eliminating the soil used in agriculture and substituting it with a soil substitute or aquatic based environment. Popular commercial methods include using a cocopeat based substrate. hydroponics and aquaponics.
One of the main challenges of traditional agriculture is controlling the environment. Soilless agriculture allows us to control the nutrition, climate, water and the plant’s growing media. This results in much shorter growth cycles, better yields and overall better quality. Additionally, water can be recirculated throughout the system which results in reduced water usage compared to traditional agriculture methods.
There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the greater control over nutrition, climate, water and growing media comes at a significantly large initial capital investment. Secondly, soilless agriculture is extremely sensitive and always requires monitoring and control over all parameters. This requires highly skilled professionals and a high level of research and development to do correctly.
Since the product is not grown in soil, it cannot be labeled organic owing to FSSAI and APEDA guidelines. However, our tests have shown little to no chemicals present in the produce and surpass most of the regulations regarding organic produce. We only use organic inputs and bio-nutrients to supplement plant growth.
Cocopeat is an organic medium made from coconuts, frequently used in both hydroponics and seed sowing mixes. Its advantages are that it is lightweight, relatively inert and comes from a sustainable source. It is usually made from coconut fibers that are spun together with natural tree rubber.
We use biological and cultural practices such as crop rotation, diversification, habitat management, beneficial organism releases and proper sanitation we can minimize the infestation of pests and insects. We also use natural substances like botanicals and other plants to manage insects and pests.
Cultural and mechanical means are used to manage weeds on our farms. We utilize techniques such as the proper rotation of crops to suppress weeds, mulching, tillage, proper water management, manual weeding and sanitation for weed management.
Soil-borne diseases are managed by improving organic matter and biological activity. Cultural, biological, and physical methods such as rotation, sanitation, pruning, and selection of disease resistant varieties are all part of organic disease management.
A greenhouse is a transparent structure created with glass where plants are grown under regulated climatic conditions. Polyhouses are synonymous with greenhouses except for the structure of the house is covered with plastic materials, which is translucent and transparent in nature. Modern greenhouse farming uses technology to maintain its environment through computer-controlled equipment such that the plants have optimum facilities for growth.
Some of the benefits associated with greenhouse farming are as follows:
Farming, especially in India, is highly dependent on the climatic conditions and this is the biggest challenge to every farmer. Modern techniques like greenhouse farming can improve the production and quality because the system is less dependent on external environmental conditions and has many advantages over traditional farming methods. Additionally, greenhouse farming also leads to increased water savings and better water use efficiency compared to conventional farming techniques. With a consistent year around supply along with better quality produce, the producer is also expected to improve their standard of living.
There are several different ways of classifying greenhouses based on various parameters. Based on structure, greenhouses can be classified into Quonset, curved roof, gable roof and tunnel structures. Based on environmental control, greenhouses can be divided into naturally ventilated and climate controlled.
Our greenhouses have a curved roof structure and varying degrees of environmental control. We use both naturally ventilated and climate-controlled means to maintain optimum environmental conditions within the greenhouses.
The components of a greenhouse can be divided into three main areas – structure, environment control and growing system. The structure consists of the main steel framework including pillars, supports and reinforcements and the poly coverings for the roof and sides. The environmental control components include all systems to maintain an optimum environment within the greenhouse. These include screen shades, exhaust fans, wet pad and fan cooling, high-pressure fogging and air circulation fans. The growing system components includes the grow bags, drip irrigation lines and all automation related to the greenhouse.
Drip irrigation is the most common method of irrigation used in greenhouses. A central water treatment facility is used to treat, enrich and distribute water throughout the greenhouse using a piping network.
A variety of vegetables and fruits can be grown in greenhouses. Some common produce includes tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, beetroots, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes and egg plants. Green leafy vegetables are also popularly grown in greenhouses. Some leafy vegetables include spinach, different varieties of lettuce, bok choy, rocket and other herbs and microgreens.
The greenhouse environment is closely monitored at all times through a completely automated system of sensors and controllers. Optimum environmental conditions within the greenhouse are maintained using proper control over systems like the screen shades, wet pad and fan cooling system, high pressure fogging and air circulation fans. Using the sensor data, the automated controllers regulate these systems to maintain optimum growing conditions for the produce.
Water is extremely important in organic farming. All nutrients and plant supplements are delivered through water. Thus, water quality and other parameters are closely managed and regulated. If the balance of water is altered, the plant growth could be adversely affected and lead to lower yields and lower quality.
The process of growing plants in an aquatic medium with added nutrients but without soil. Hydro is Latin for water and ‘Ponos’ means work or labor – Water Works! The main principles of hydroponics are increased oxygen to the root zone and liquid feed delivered directly to the roots. This results in increased growth rates and increased yields when compared to traditional open cultivation methods.
It can be. If organic nutrients and supplements are used in the water along with an organic growing medium, the produce can be considered organic. However, more care is required to ensure a clean system free from any chemicals when using a hydroponic system. We use only organic inputs for all our produce and our tests have shown a chemical and residue free product that surpasses the most aggressive regulations for organic produce.
There are several reasons why hydroponics is better than growing in soil. Firstly, there are immense space savings in hydroponic systems compared to traditional methods. Secondly, nutrients are delivered directly to the roots instead of having to stretch out in search of them. Thirdly, most of the water can be recirculated leading to efficient use of water and reduced wastage. Lastly, the root zone receives much higher oxygen levels compared to soil gardens leading to increased nutrient uptake and higher growth rates.
The roots receive oxygen through the air, which surrounds them, as well as through dissolved oxygen in the nutrient solution. The proper growth medium can play an important role in this process.
The water requirements vary depending on the plant as well as period of growth. For instance, during the initial stages of plant growth, a larger amount of water is required as compared to during the later stages. However, most of the water used in hydroponic systems can be reused resulting in water savings and reduced water wastage.
Since the roots uptake the nutrients from the water, the water does have to be enriched again before being recirculated. This may involve mixing with a nutrient rich stream of water or enriching the recirculated stream directly.
Nutrient film technology (NFT) is one of the common techniques of hydroponics. The process involves a continuously flowing thin stream of water that carries the nutrients and other supplements to the plants.
Some of the negative effects of current conventional farming practices include:
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between nonrelated species. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods.
While theoretical discussions have covered a broad range of aspects, the three main issues debated are the potentials to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity), gene transfer and outcrossing.
Pesticide residues, crop contaminants (aflatoxins, patulin, ochratoxin, etc.) naturally occurring toxic substances and heavy metals are the major contaminants found in fruit and vegetables. Pesticides are used in management of pests and diseases in agricultural and horticultural crops. Heavy metals are present in the irrigation water and other manures. Infested seeds, irrigation water and soil act as the source of the fungal toxins.
Pesticides can leave adverse effects on the nervous system. Some pesticides are also considered to be carcinogens and could cause liver, kidney, and lung damage. Certain pesticides can also cause loss of weight and appetite, irritability, insomnia, behavioral disorder and dermatological problems. Heavy metals also cause adverse effect in human metabolic system, skin diseases and heart problems.
Most fruits and vegetables grown using traditional farming methods have some degree of contamination owing to the use of insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. However, common fruits that have been shown to have high levels of contamination include Apples, Peaches, Strawberries and Grapes. Some common vegetables with high levels of contamination include Spinach, Bell Peppers, Cucumber, Cherry Tomatoes, Potatoes and Lettuce.