Setting up greenhouses

Located in Pune, Omkar Industries is engaged in setting up and maintaining greenhouses.

The company is headed by the partners Mr. Ravindra Patil and Mr.Satish Nadgauda. The company deals in almost all green house products starting from structural materials, aluminium sections, which are useful for polyethylene films, shade nets, of different shades and thickness, and also products like ventilation fans and cooling pads along with frames. It also deals in automation units like temperature, humidity controllers which are used for temperature control.

“Ours is a group of technocrats working in different areas of hi-tech agriculture. As you are aware agriculture industry is unable to cope with demands of the population by cultivating with traditional practices. In traditional practices of agriculture lot of labour, water, soil is required. Due to high costs involved the traditional practices proved to be un-economical. To overcome this scientists developed new varieties, new techniques like tissue culture and different agronomical practices,” says Mr. Patil.

“We have studied the major areas of the agriculture and developed our concentration in the field of tissue culture technology, transgenic and greenhouses. In greenhouse plantations, the quality of the product and total yield is remarkably good. Also it is found that the product yield in more, fetches better price than the traditional crop and hence proves to be economical,” he elaborates.

Transgenic Green House
The company’s main working area at present is transgenic type of greenhouses for seed industries. “We have already executed the transgenic type of greenhouses for most of the organizations in this field. Now few new projects are in pipeline for the forced ventilated type and transgenic type of greenhouses,” says Mr. Patil.

He explains, “We recently started concentrating on transgenic green houses particularly for seed industry. Right now in the seed industry some genes are introduced which help the plants to fight pests, for example Bacillus Thrunjiasis (BT) in cotton seeds. This is a bacterium whose genes are introduced in the generic strain of cotton and it helps the crop from the pest ball worm that spoils the crop and reduces the production by more than 40%. Introducing BT gene in cotton helps protect the crop from the worm. Whenever worm feeds on the crop, it won’t be able to eat anything and die of starvation.”

Whenever any generic crossings are done the crops have to be grown in a restricted environment, which is the transgenic greenhouse. Transgenic greenhouse is a totally intact structure wherein even the pollens of the crops are not allowed to go out. All the openings are protected by 40/40 mesh cover and the green house is well equipped with climate equipments through out the year. Crops can be grown in the greenhouse and nobody is allowed to enter the greenhouse except for the breeder.

Mr. Patil says, “These greenhouses are basically for seed production for seed companies and not for farmers. It is basically a contentment facility. Next crop can be grown outside. Wherever cotton plantations are there BT is getting compulsory. In the near future other crops grown by this method would be brinjal and tomato.”

Tissue Culture
Mr. Patil claims, “In tissue culture also we have got good results as the plants grow in controlled environment in the laboratory between 10-22 degree F. To make the plants strong enough to grow in the open environment, they have to first to undergo green house hardening, which is known as primary hardening. Then secondary hardening takes place under shade nets and only after that are the plans capable of growing in the open.” The companies it has catered to in tissue culture include Aditya Bio Tech and Research Ltd at Raipur, Gufic Bioscience Ltd., Mumbai and Nirmal Biotech at Jalgaon.

Mr. Patil avers, “In shade nets there is a limitation in climatic control. Shade nets basically saves the plants from pests and direct sunlight. Temperature is also lowered by a few degrees only – a little more by foggers etc. But there is no control over CO2 accumulation, humidity. Even in rains there is no control over water going inside.”

Crops Cultivated
The crops cultivated in open ventilated green houses are dutch roses, gerberas, carnations, anthrium, orchids and in vegetables it is coloured capsicum. “Everything can be grown in green houses and since so much investment is made, we recommend crops, which give production for longer duration and also day-to-day products. And most importantly the product should be of high value,” advises Mr. Patil. However, different types of crops require different kinds of green houses as different crops grow in diverse climatic conditions.

Mr. Patil named some of its prominent customers as Reliance Agrotech at Jamnagar, Reliance Biosciences, Krishadhan Seeds Ltd, Zuari Seeds Ltd, Bangalore, Safal Biotech and Seeds Ltd, Vibha biotech Ltd, Tulsi Seeds Ltd, Vikram Seeds Ltd., Gujarat.

The annual business turnover of the company is Rs. 2.5 crores per year. Mr. Patil maintains it has well-equipped workshop with all facilities to execute green house projects on turnkey basis in stipulated time. “Along with different types of machinery we have a team of 50 skilled workers, with many of them having completed the certificate course of I. T. I,” avers Mr. Patil, adding, “Till today we have completed different projects of natural ventilated and forced ventilation projects of greenhouses for different areas and for different crops.”

When asked how big a greenhouse can be, Mr. Patil avers, “Green houses can be up to 5000 sq mt. There are no area limitations as such. I have known one farmer who had green houses on his 50 acres land. It all depends on the kind of investment one is ready to make.”

Source of Raw Materials
Mr. Patil says all the products used in green houses are sourced from different sources. “We get the GI pipes locally; polyethlene sheet from Israel; pad, fan, automation unit from USA; aluminate shade net from Israel, which provide good protection from high temperature,” he says adding, “By using these nets the temperature gets reduced by 7-8%.”

Comparing the green houses of other companies with that of his, Mr. Patil says, “Generally all the other companies provide open ventilated green houses and mostly are doing the work of fabrication. These people are just erecting the green house and don’t know the technology. They know the design and that’s it. One erector should know about the biotech functions also as we are growing plants inside the green house. I am a PG in plant physiology and understand the plants.”

He further adds, “Most of the green houses built are natural/open while we are into open as well as forced ventilated fan and pad cooling systems, wherein climatic conditions are controlled. Nobody is working on those areas and we are leading in this line.” When asked about the costs involved, Mr. Patil says, “Since we are giving maximum output, the costs too are a little high. Cost depends on the facilities required. For transgenic green house cost varies from Rs.1000 to 1200 per sq mt and for open/natural it is Rs. 400- 525 per sq mt.” Mr. Patil avers the plastic sheets need to be changed after every 2-½ to 3 years time and cost incurred while changing is Rs. 60-75 per sq mt normally.

Obstacles Faced
Mr. Patil says there is scope for the business to be scaled up. However he adds, “For this we require the support of government and mainly of bankers. We get the subsidy but that is not the solution. Marketing facility is not there. Auction centres are there but are not controlled by the government.”

He further adds, “The bankers are not interested in giving loans. They ask for deposits, which the farmers don’t have. For security also they just have their lands to offer. Right now UTI and Kotak Mahindra have started agri loans. In the past, many companies had taken loans and used it for the purpose and then showed losses. So bankers are apprehensive but they should also understand the reality.” Mr. Patil says the main difficulty the company is facing in expanding his business is finance. The market is there but we get only 25% of the payment in advance but when we procure the raw materials we have to pay 100%. We can recover the costs only after the green house is made.”

Future Plans
Talking about the company’s future plans, Mr. Patil says, “In future we will be concentrating on greenhouses for tissue culture, herbs, greenhouses for G. M. O’s and the other products. We have proved ourselves for designing the greenhouses, considering not only the fabrication aspects but biotechnological aspects also.”

He further says, “We have concentrated our business in the state of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Assam, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Mizoram and Karnataka. And we would like to expand the business in other parts of India.” Mr. Patil, who has done his masters in plant physiology, heads the biotechnological section, procurement and execution activities of the company. While Mr. Nadgauda has done his masters in industrial micro-biology.

Our Correspondent