Aeroponics, soil-less cultivation technology sourced from Israel, being tried out
Taking a cue from its success in increasing the acreage under conventional cultivation,the Manjapra Service Cooperative Bank is preparing to adopt “aeroponics” or soil-less cultivation to save space and provide a big push to vegetable production.
T. D. Paulose, president of the bank, said that the bank had prepared a 1,000-sq.ft. plot for the pilot phase of the aeroponics venture, which involved using vertical space.
Aeroponics does not need soil as a medium and relies on water sprays to convey nutrients to the plants. It differs from hydroponics where water is used to convey nutrients to the plants.
Mr. Paulose said that he expected the new model to be a success, considering that the method had been tried out places such as Bangalore. The system was adopted mostly from Israel, where availability of cultivable land is a serious issue. At the same time,aeroponics would have to be adapted to suit the local conditions and its cost reduced to make it viable for large-scale applications.
When a 10 sq.ft. vertical space is used, the aeroponics model is capable of compressing an acre of cultivation to seven cents, claimed Mr. Paulose. However, the Manjapra model would use only 5 sq.ft. of vertical space for the experimental farm, he said.
If the new technology could be adopted for wider application by the bank, it would take the safe-to-eat vegetables program a step forward. Besides enlisting nearly 2,000 farmers engaged in conventional cultivation of vegetables and banana, the bank has also 80 fish farmers and 106 poultry farmers under its fold.
Their businesses have been set up with the help of the bank.
The poultry egg production program has hit a roadblock with egg prices falling recently, he said.
The bank’s poultry sector produces up to 5,000 eggs per day. The number of vegetable farmers is also set to increase in the coming months.
Jaiva Jeevitham reaps a bounty
The sale of locally cultivated safe-to-eat vegetables, pokkali rice and value-added products from it, and coconut oil under the aegis of the district unit of the CPI(M) saw a total turnover of more than Rs.2 crore over a period of 10 days in the run up to Thiruvonam.
The vegetables came from over 700 acres under various local committees of the CPI (M),said M. M. Abbas of ‘Jaiva Jeevitham’ program , which was initiated two years ago with an aim of producing safe-to-eat vegetables and fruits.
He said there were 250 outlets that sold the vegetables and other produce.
The farmers got about 90 per cent of the price as these shops were mostly run by farmers’groups. Increased availability of safe-to-eat vegetables was one of the key features of the Onam market this year. This resulted in about 30 per cent price cut compared to the previous year. Around three tonnes of safe-to-eat rice was also sold through the various outlets ahead of Onam.
According to organizers, the sale and demand for pokkali rice was encouraging for farmers, who have been abandoning its cultivation because of the rising cost.