India's Key to Sustainable Farming

In the early 1700s, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to George Washington, "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness ”Over time, farming has altered the history of human civilization, and as a result, we now place a high value on land as a vital component of agricultural output. Over the course of millennia, the importance of soil quality, fertility, care, and value has been a central topic of social and political discourse.

Mechanization, irrigation, and fertilisers have all been used to increase the quality of the land and soil throughout history. But current developments are calling into question the importance of land itself. Yes, I'm referring to farming techniques that don't even use any land. We have come across hydroponics, where plants are grown in inert medium like rocks or coir and are fed with nutrient rich water is probably the most well researched method. And there is aquaponics, where fish are reared in water along with plants. This method of agriculture was conceived in order to find a way of growing food in space. While the term was coined by Dutch biologist Frits Warmolt in 1957, it only saw some traction in the mid-eighties when patents were filed and aeroponically food was sold in European markets.

Today Asian countries like Vietnam are adopting aeroponics in a big way for a low cost certified disease-free organic produce.

In a predominantly agrarian country like India, aeroponics holds the potential to contribute to the development of the sector and boost production. The technique requires only 10 percent of the area traditional farming needs. According to NASA, aeroponically grown plants can be harvested three times faster and the yields are more consistent. As nutrients are sprayed onto the plants and roots, and there's plenty of oxygen and other gases in the growing chamber for roots to absorb.

In a country like India, space is always an issue. There is a constant pressure on agricultural land and its conversion to other uses and we are losing about 3,000 acres of farmland to real estate or industrial development every day. With Aeroponics the discussions around farming can move away from land constraints to focussing more on sustainable farming techniques.