Smart farming with Hydroponics in Phek district

Photographs courtesy: Vesalu Puro and Weto Medo

Photographs courtesy: Vesalu Puro and Weto Medo

Two young Naga entrepreneurs are involved in hydroponic technique through the sponsorship of NEIDA. Vesalu Puro, an MSW (Urban and Rural Community Development) is a young enthusiastic and energetic entrepreneur from Porba village under Phek district of Nagaland. Early this year, NEIDA team visited her farm and introduced the concept of hydroponics, a method of cultivating plants without soil. Their team set up a small-scale hydroponics system, and she started with basil and lettuce plants. So far, the journey into hydroponic farming has been a success. Miss Puro acknowledged that “the once-unused space transformed into an oasis of greenery. I must say, it is the best method for cultivation. Now, I'm looking forward to growing more plants and expanding this new endeavor”.

Another progressive nursery entrepreneur, Weto Medo, 35 years old, hailing from Pfutseromi village also under Phek district of Nagaland, has been working with NEIDA for more than 7 years since its introduction in his village in the year 2015 through the implementing partner, Chakhesang Women Welfare Society (CWWS) Pfutsero. The agency has been supporting him in different fields of farming such as high value vegetable farming, rearing of pigs and raising of fruit saplings. The hydroponics system was initiated in his farm in the year 2023 with the assistance from NEIDA for growing exotic and high valued crops like red oak lettuce, crisp head lettuce etc. Weto states that, “hydroponics is a creative and sustainable form of farming as it is utilizes less land and water which is the need of the hour and also the only option for future farming due to the increasing population”.

So, what is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a popular method in vertical farming where plants are grown without soil. Nutrient rich water solutions are used to distribute essential minerals and nutrients directly to the plant roots. This method involves reduced water usage and allows for accurate control over nutrient delivery to the plant which results in faster growth and higher crop yields. In India, the hydroponics farming market is still in its nascent stage, but it is expected to grow extensively in the coming years. Some suitable crops for hydroponic farming include leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce, kale, herbs like basil, cilantro, thyme, microgreens, strawberries etc.

Hydroponics Vs Soil – 
What are the Advantages?
The most obvious advantage of hydroponics system is growing plants in a liquid nutrient solution that affects the root architecture of plants, causing them to grow more efficiently than in soil, however there are other advantages as well. Some of which includes-
•    More plant density: Because they are not stuck in dirt, plants can be easily moved as they grow. Growing plants in liquid also decreases the area required for them to grow than if they were grown in soil.
•    Higher crop yields: Hydroponics greenhouses reported higher yields and better-quality produce than traditional operations.
•    Less water wastes: In hydroponics systems, the roots are encased in a closed trough or tube, hence less water evaporates than in soil growing systems.

Disadvantages
We would be remiss if we didn’t also acknowledge that there are some perceived disadvantages to hydroponic gardening. 
•    Larger Initial Investment. 
•    More technical skill is required: You’ll need to know how to use monitoring and growing system. The learning curve is a bit steeper than traditional growing.
While hydroponics does come with some perceived disadvantages, with the advancement in technology, hydroponics farming system can revolutionize the way we grow crops and become more prominent in the future agriculture system as they are more efficient, cost-effective, and scalable. The integration of artificial intelligence, automation, and data analytics can further optimize resource utilization and crop management in hydroponic farms. Moreover, hydroponics farming can contribute to India's goal of achieving food security, reducing post-harvest losses, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. The prospect of vertical farming in India looks promising.

Article contributed by Dr Hannah Krujia, CTO Agronomy and Veralu Hesuh, YP II, NICRA KVK Phek