1. Agriculture World

Restaurants In Kerala Now Harvesting Benefits of In-House Hydroponic Farms

The kochi-based agri-tech company sets up hydroponic farms for restaurants and resorts.

Shivani Meena
Hydroponic Farm
Hydroponic Farm

Tonico Cafe in Kakkanad, Kochi, receives its fresh basil, kale, and cilantro from its garden. The eatery, known for its pastas and soups, began using hydroponic farming a few months ago to generate its supplies. "We require a large amount of basil for our unique pesto sauce."

"Good quality basil is difficult to get by in the state, so we decided to cultivate our own," explains Tony Jose, Tonico's founder, and CEO. Tony's vertical garden now provides him with a continuous supply of basil.

Hydroponics, a new soilless agricultural technology, is gaining popularity across the country. The system, which takes relatively little room and water, has gained popularity among urban residents, particularly during the lockdown months.

Need for Hydroponic Farms To Become self Sufficient

Restaurants and resorts found it incredibly difficult to get decent quality vegetables in between repeated lockdowns. "There is a great deal of interest among restaurant operators in establishing their hydroponic farms to become self-sufficient," says Ashwin Ramachandran, founder, and CEO of PlantMe Agro Solutions, a Kochi-based agri-tech startup that has been planning to set up hydroponic vegetable and fruit gardens for commercial establishments across the State.

PlantMe, established a year and a half ago by Ashwin, Nithin Kumar, Parvathy Sasikumar, and Akhila Ramdas, aims to educate and encourage more companies to produce their greens. "The job is to increase awareness about the necessity of eating clean, sustainable food," says Ashwin.

Elixir Hills, a Munnar resort, has installed a 2,000-square-foot poly house for hydroponic gardening, providing vast quantities of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, and strawberries that meet the majority of the resort's cooking demands. Though these veggies and fruits flourish in Munnar, which would be colder than the rest of Kerala, the output is typically subject to weather fluctuations.

According to Ashwin, traditional agricultural methods are becoming increasingly difficult in Kerala, which has been struggling with recurring floods since 2018. Hydroponic systems, he argues, may be installed vertically, removing the need for a huge space. "Moreover, because the exotic vegetables are cultivated in a regulated setting, the farmer may be confident of a great harvest," he says.

PlantMe's Aluva office features a poly house where they produce yellow peppers, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, bok choy, basil, and a variety of herbs. At 12.30 p.m., the temperature in the poly house is a pleasant 27 degrees Celsius, even though it is approximately 33 degrees Celsius outside. The temperature and humidity required for growing these veggies are controlled using evaporating cooling pads positioned within the poly house.

The company installs similar poly houses for commercial farmers and businesses, providing training and help till the first harvest. A poly house requires a minimum space of 500 sq.ft. and may cost anywhere from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh, depending on the type of vegetables grown and the location of the land.

Hydroponic Farms Not Immune To Challenges

The system, on the other hand, is not immune to challenges. Temperature control systems must be strict in order to achieve optimal production. Growers must also study the fundamentals of plant science, hydroponics, and agri-tech.

PlantMe has served over 200 urban farmers in Kerala, both individual and commercial, utilizing nutrient film technique (NFT), which includes pumping water into a grow tray. The nutrient solution in the water is recycled through a drained food grade tube, producing an excellent environment for growing lettuce, amaranthus, mint, and kale.

Large indoor refrigerator-like vertical units

The company is reportedly developing large indoor refrigerator-like vertical units that restaurants (as well as private houses) may install to produce greens under grow lights. Microgreens ranging from sorrel to parsley, oregano, and lavender may then be harvested from one's farm unit. It's never been easier to make a fresh salad.

Share your comments

Subscribe to our Newsletter. You choose the topics of your interest and we'll send you handpicked news and latest updates based on your choice.

Subscribe Newsletters