Success Story

Read How These Indian Hydroponic Farmers are doing Profitable Businesses

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This farm is located in the middle of an industrial building in the Andheri East neighborhood of Mumbai spread across 1000 sq feet and grows 2,500 plants. It’s not an ordinary farm with natural light or soil rather you will get the hum of air conditioner, sunlight is replaced by tube lights and there’s no soil on the patch.

“Herbivore Farms” is an exceptional example of the modernized, newly popular and successful type of urban farming named hydroponics. In simple words, it is growing plants in water.  Water replaced the soil in sowing which is rich in macronutrients like nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, calcium nitrate and micronutrients like manganese, zinc, etc. It is controlled by a ‘grow system’ which balance nutrition, humidity, and temperature, uses less water than soil-based farming and increases yield without chemicals or pesticides.

“There are many advantages to urban farming than you think. It requires less area of land, water consumption is 80 percent less, it is pesticide-free and in cases of high-tech farms there is no dependence on the weather” says Ajay Naik, hydroponic farmer of Letcetra Agritech in the Sattari district of Goa.

Hydroponic farming has set up its roots all across India. Sakina Rajkotwala and Joshua Lewis, these prominent names were highlighted last year who are an active member of Herbivore Farms. Linesh Pillai started Terra Farms as a pilot project before taking the idea countrywide in Manori. Delhi has Triton Foodworks; Noida has Nature’s Miracle; Chennai has Sriram Gopal’s Future Farms and Rahul Dhoka’s Acqua Farms; and Gurugram-based company, Barton Breeze, has six farms across Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.  

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Ajay Naik, added “Hydroponics and other soil-less farming techniques can help us take our agriculture and farming industry to the next level,” 

Farmers of the new generation

This new farming is initiated with so many good intentions including sustainable farming and produce fresh, organic, zero-carbon food.

The journey of Rajkotwala and Lewis’ to this farming is quite interesting. They quit their jobs at Magic Bus and Directi, respectively, and decided to seek out their purpose of life.  The question of ‘who we are and what we want from life’ led them to this path and to examine what they eat,  a stint at an Auroville farm, and eating fresh produce, turned out to be the change they sought.  “It was a revelatory experience as it opened our minds to the importance of foods,” said Lewis.

“We wanted to replicate that farm model—pluck vegetables and eat them fresh—in the urban space,” Rajkotwala said who started with a small farm on the terrace in Juhu in 2017 and moved to Andheri in 2018. 

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Herbivore Farms’ is an excellent example of how hydroponic farm functions. It consists of a covered germination chamber that uses the biodegradable sponge to sprout plants, a nursery where net cups (small planters) are filled with clay pebbles for support and structure, and the grow systems where the plants become fully grown. The process involves metal stands, PVC pipes connected to a covered nutrient tank that pumps water to the plants, and tube lights. Once the plant grows roots, it is transferred to a system with higher nutrients in the water, where it is properly grown and harvested.

In this farming, everything can be controlled from the humidity and temperature levels to the amount of light, nutrients, and water. Every farmer has his/her own customized grow systems, lights, seeds, and growing methods, although most hydroponic systems function in a similar manner.  At Herbivore, the production comprises of sorrel, basil, micro greens, edible flowers, lettuce varieties, Swiss Chard and peppermint—is packed into boxes and sent to customers via a subscription model. Most of the farmers used to sell their produce at markets, gourmet stores, restaurants, cafes and salad bars, and to businesses. 

 Pillai of UGF farms also sets up grow areas in restaurants, hotels and community spaces and has done so in over 30 locations in five cities, including Moscow. He starts his journey in 2014, converting 500 sq ft into a prototype.

“It is food that grows in a space where it is consumed and never goes through logistics. Today, foods takes much longer to get to our plates and in the interim, most valued nutrients are lost. By this method, food is consumed right after harvesting, it cannot get fresher,” Pilai says.

Rahul Dhoka, from Chennai has an 80 sq ft terrace farm producing kale, bok choy, Italian basil, thyme and mint, all for his family of six. He is an industrial biotech graduate who started out in the organic business before moving to hydroponic farming last year.  

Hydroponic farming can be a very good option for India’s agriculture arena while it’s farmers are facing the same challenges as delivering safe and nutritious food to a growing population at affordable prices; providing their livelihood, and overcoming severe resource and climate pressures. 



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Organic Farming Association of India
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