Hydroponics

Mr. Kalaskar cultivates strawberry using hydroponics technique. About the advantages of hydroponics technique and it usage in growing strawberries.

Atul Kalaskar 

Atul Kalaskar

Atul Kalaskar is a hydroponics and controlled environment entrepreneur. He is based out of Pune and is a software architect by qualification. Mr. Kalaskar cultivates strawberry using hydroponics technique. In an interview to Agriculture & Industry Survey Mr. Kalaskar speaks about the advantages of hydroponics technique and it usage in growing strawberries.

Hydrophonics (HP) is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Further explaining the concept, Mr. Kalaskar says, “Using HP we try to overcome the obstacles placed by nature as well as by man. For example, soil may not be good naturally or polluted by men. So go soil-less. Climate, rains, it is the same story. So HP allows us to grow plants by overcoming the challenges thrown by mother nature and mankind.”  He add, “Strawberry, or for that matter any fruit /vegetable, can be grown in any place on the earth using this technique. I can grow strawberry profitably in any part of India where climate is not humid.”

Advantages of Growing HP Strawberries
Using HP, strawberries can be grown all year round or just during the season (to cut cost). “The main advantages are very high quality yield, high labor efficiency, efficiency in use of water and nutrients,” maintains Mr. Kalaskar.

He suggests using a mixture of natural salts which are available locally, as nutrients. “Recycling is always the right thing to do and this allows us to save on water usage and fertilizers which otherwise run to waste and eventually pollute the ground and water table. Every plant has their specific nutrient requirement for various growth stages in their life cycle. One can certainly create a PPM based formula and create it by using the natural salts. There may be commercial off the shelf product available but they tend to be expensive and may not always be the right choice. The best is understand your crop, its needs and provide the right nutrients,” he advices.

Viability to Small Farmers
Commenting on the viability of hydroponics for small and marginal farmers, Mr. Kalaskar says, “In future the life of these farmers is going to very challenging. Their productivity will be lower and their bargaining power will go down. The only way out is a co-operative model, where 100’s of them come together, create a land bank, employ new technologies such as hydroponics, which in turn makes them large producers and thus get more bargaining power for pricing. Also they will be able to then hire M.Sc agro graduates to manage such farms,” adding, “But as of today the small farmer will not be able do hydroponics but he can start on smaller steps such as using poly-houses, drip irrigation or going soil-less, advancing one step at a time.”

Steps to Popularize HP
Relating his experience in popularizing HP, Mr. Kalaskar says, “When I first took this idea to agro experts and investors, nobody believed that this will work. So I have spent the last 1 year in creating a proof of concept which proved that hydroponics does work. Now lots of people in Maharashtra suddenly have woken up to this idea. But this is a small beginning.”

He feels this topic needs to be introduced in agro education. The government needs to promote this technology on a large scale basis, and just like floriculture parks, the government should create special agro zones to popularize this idea.

Economics of HP
Speaking about the economics involved, Mr. Kalaskar says, “For my strawberry planting it costs Rs. 1.5 crores just in the form of capital investment per acre which is just next to impossible for a farmer who owns even 100 acre land. So we have a model which we are putting the finishing touches and we will unveil in a year or two. We will ask farmers to create a land bank of 100+ acres, we will bring in the required technology and knowhow, private investors /government /banks will fund the project. The entire project is owned and operated by these 3 entities, farmers, us and investors.
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This brings out the best of everybody’s strengths. Another approach would be to create solution based schemes which even small farmer can implement.”

Process of Growing HP Strawberries
Explaining the process of growing HP strawberries, Mr. Kalaskar says, “Once you understand the needs of strawberry plants, you will realize it has different needs during early growth, vegetative growth and fruiting. To the best of my knowledge, no off the shelf product is available which can cater to the needs. So it is best to mix your own. If not you can always use traditional 19:19:19 and mix others. Remember to use fully water soluble fertilizers. I prefer using bio controls instead of pesticides. Control environment as such ensures there are no pests. But if you have an outbreak then you should use chemical pesticides rather than losing your crop. As far as process of strawberry goes, it remains exactly same like traditional farming.”

He adds, “I prefer using certified original imported plants compared to the locally grown plants which are very young and are prone to disease. We also add a touch with use of vedic agriculture by using classical music therapy and agnihotra. Indian classical music is proved conclusively by Dr. J. Bose to affect the plant growth, vigor and yield.”

This HP process which depends on managing temperature year round mainly depends on fan pad system. Fan pad system needs dry climate.

So in India except in coastal or humid areas, strawberries can be grown anywhere, even in coastal areas but there one would require air conditioners to cool the air which may not be economical.

“One of the biggest precautions one needs to take is to set up a generator back up because even 30 minutes in hot sun in a green house without power is like a pressure cooker and all plants will die due to extreme heat build up. Water is the most critical component. Plants need pure water with ph of 6. “We use RO filtered water for our strawberries plants. Since this makes water very expensive for us, we go that extra mile to recycle it. Water is captured and stored after irrigating.

It is then passed through slow sand filter and then UV filtered to kill any spores. This water then added back to main water line.” Aver Mr. Kalaskar.

Further speaking about the precautions to be taken, he says, “Precautions are to be taken starting from right cultivar to the right age of plants, proper media, proper nutrient, and its management. Even harvesting also requires careful use of disinfected scissors to cut the fruits. Post harvest treatment and packaging, and so the list is very long and basically it starts much before the planting stage and goes all the way to the last day.”

Income Generated
Speaking about the income generated, Mr. Kalaskar says, “At the beginning of the season, strawberry fetches Rs. 300+ per kg. There are no off season producers but off season prices can go as high as Rs. 600 per kg. We even have a plan to introduce a special type of strawberry which will be sold for Rs. 90 per fruit.”
He adds, “Traditional farmer plants on an average 25,000 plants in an acre which yields around 8-10 tons of Strawberry. His mix is 25% class 1, 40% class 2 and rest as industrial berry. He gets the price between 120 kg at the beginning to almost 25 per kg during peak In hydroponics, we plant 80,000 plants in an acre which produces 60-80 tons of strawberry. 60% of this strawberry is sold during off season which safely means prices above Rs. 120 per kg. So even though the capital investment is high, one can expect to touch Rs. 1 crore per acre the sales from hydroponic strawberry.”

Shelf Life of Fruits
Shelf life is one of the major problems of strawberry growers. Strawberry fruit once removed from the plant actually starts deteriorating. Suggesting ways to improve shelf life, Mr. Kalaskar says, “As soon as fruit is cut, field heat needs to be removed in pre cooling chamber, and after that it must be maintained at 2C all the way. You also must ensure that the fruit is handled minimally as it gets bruised quickly. It should never be allowed to get wet or sweat. Ensuring the above can make strawberry stay fresh for 7-10 days. In the absence of the above, 4th day is the day you need to throw it away.”

In future Mr. Kalaskar wants to provide consulting services in HP for farmers. “We are looking at creating a brand under which all growers will grow various fruits and vegetables. Just like Amul, this brand will guide, consult and work with farmers for producing world class fruits and vegetables. That’s the dream.”

He insists any crop can be grown with HP but his only concern is profitability. “We do have certain plants in mind, especially high value crops, medicinal plants and then general crop. The list is endless and it will take many folks like me to come up with an idea to produce them smartly,” he avers.

Our Correspondent

Source : Agriculture & Industry Survey [/hidepost]

  • Hari priya

    Hi Atul

    Can we have your contact details, we are also trying hydroponic system at Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.

    Thanks
    Hari

  • EVEREST EDWARD

    Hello Atul,

    can I have your contact details.

    regards

    Everest

  • murali osuri

    Hello Atul,

    can I have your contact details.

    regards
    murali osuri

  • http://-- bibhuti man singh

    We need some advice on the feasibility of hydroponics at individual building scale: whether individual apartment dwellers can have a profitable HP farm going from their terraces or a house dweller the same from his roof terrace.
    What eqpt or materials are required, a rough sketch would indeed be very helpful, thank you.

  • http://yahoo.com Piyathilaka

    It is very intresting and useful information for people whom are engaged in food production.sharing valuble information like this is benefitial for the mankind.I am agriculture specialist by profession and like to exchange ideas.Thanks for publishing this kind of information.

  • http://yahoo.com Piyathilaka

    It is very intresting and useful information for people whom are engaged in food production.sharing valuble information like this is benefitial for the mankind.I am agriculture specialist by profession and like to exchange ideas with Mr Atul.Thanks for publishing this kind of information.

  • Rajesh Pusalkar

    pl. send your contact details. i have some client who can invest in bigger way for such projects.
    Thanks.
    Rajesh Pusalkar. 9869056203

  • piyush

    dear atulbhai.

    its good to see hp on new as my son done project on hp in 12 th and his project was selectted 1st in gujarat state this year, so if you provied me more information i can put in my farm.

    please give me your contact detial,
    as we are slso farmer and haveing mango and chikoou grden.

    with best regards,

    piyush naik

  • Pradeep Kumar

    Hi,

    I am a professional in Horticulture technologies doing projects in India and abroad. I have been doing hydroponic projects in Kuwait & Malaysia for leafy vegetables.

    Please mail me your address for future conversations.

    Pradeep Kumar.C.S
    Email : prabio@gmail.com
    Mobile : 0/ 9903250801

  • george ambooken

    i have two bone meal factories located in kerala state and if anybody is interested in purchasing steamed bone meal they can contact me on my mobile 9387880801 or my e mail id georgeambooken@gmail.com

  • mohit

    pl. send me your contact details

  • http://no Zubair

    Its amazing. Good Luck

  • harvinder singh

    hi!
    This is harvinder from punjab.I have 20 acres of prolific land. Can we grow strawberry or any other profitable medicinal crops in our fields with hydroponic techniques .Does punjab environment is conducive for this technique. kindly provide us with consultancy and requirements for crops.. kindly give me your contact no..my cell no is 9915591364

  • vipul patel

    Hi!
    i am vipul, from gujarat.i have 50 acres agri land .and i am doing cultivation colour capsicum under green house.socan i grow STREWBERRY or any profitable crop.pl give me your co no my no is 9998509697

  • kulkarni

    Good article. I’m not sure bringing 10+ more farmers together would help to make the profit from a hydroponics farm. Because it is difficult to sell such huge quantity of cultivated crop, especially strawberry

  • Atul Kalaskar

    Hi friends,

    Thanks indeed for your comments and I feel really happy to see so much interest. I can be reached on my e-mail atulkalaskar@yahoo.com for specific queies.

    Of all other queries, one by Mr. Kulkarni needs to be addressed publicly. Marketing has always been extremely challenging in any field but when it comes to agro products it is green gold one day and compost the very next day.

    Since you are unable to sell thus one should not produce more is of course wrong thinking on our part. India is a huge market, all one needs is proper growing practices, proper post harvest treatment which will increase the shelf life of produce. Quality produce will always find a great buyer in the market but there must be conscious efforts to build the client base. Low price strategy never works but what works is value for money.

    It is hard work and people have built fortunes trading food stuff. If they can do it then why can’t we. Furthermore, if you really don’t want to work hard on selling and prefer working hard on production then by all means engage these professional companies to sell your produce. They sure will but you may not get the entire value. So if you want to have your cake and eat it too then you must be efficient in each field.

    Best Regards

    Atul Kalaskar.

  • amit jain

    Hi, Atul
    I live in rajasthan where water avaibility is very low ,
    So i am very keen about this hydroponic system . want your advice and help
    in setting up the poject.please contact me or email me your information
    my tel no is 94140-56891.
    Thanks
    Amit Jain

  • Avinash Shukla

    Dear Atul Ji
    We need some advice on the hydroponics Nutrients dose & methods.

  • Pingback: The Urban Vision | Eco City Ideas: Hydroponics, the urban face of Agriculture 2.0

  • Atul Kalaskar

    Hi folks,

    You can reach me at my e-mail atulkalaskar@yahoo.com for specific querries or on my cell at 9822403194.

    Best Regards

    Atul Kalaskar

  • Mayur

    Hi Mr.Kalaskar

    I am Mayur ,I am working and i am intrested to speak to you ,could you plz sendme your contact details ,so we can liase further .

    Regards
    Mayur

  • vijay gupta

    we are a ngo helping in rural devlopment of the people and farmers, cultivation. so please help us know more about this tecnology for mass benefit.
    ph-09830960076.

  • maranye Agro-Processing

    Ihave a Big Land located 60km from Da-es-salaam JK Nyerere Air port. about 70km from Da-es-salaam Port TANZANIA. I would like to cultivating the land with the Hydoponic method. please send me your details
    Thanks

  • Erigere E Singin

    I am enquiring from Papua New Guinea. I am interested in your stories. I would like to email you direct with some more questions please.

    thanks

  • Abdul Alotaibi

    Hello Atul

    I am an investor from Saudi Arabia and i am planning to set a commercial hydroponic growing of strawbery and i want to know if you are interested to offer your services as project advisor . If your are interested kindly contact me at : diraapinternational(AT)gmail.com

  • h d rank

    Dear Atul bhai,

    The strobeery is very pershishable gruits. So the market should be near to place of the production.

    I am professor in Agril. Engg. College, JAU, Junagadh. The farmers of the Suarshtra regionof Gujarat state is having very small land holding and is partioning into small strips, ganeration by generation. So it is realy wory to farmers to feed the farmers famility from limited land. So the soil less cultivation may be the merging field of new agri technology for the comming days.

    Please send me the details of the stroberry cultivation under soil les media
    so that it can be suefull to farmers of this area as we are organing farmers training programe in our university.
    Also it can be usefull to our students of B Tech (Agril. Engg.)

    email: hdrank@jau.in
    cell no.: 094 295 15439

  • hema

    Sir,
    Really glad to see such article on hydroponics. I am an intermediate school Teacher in Andhara pradesh.We need some advice on the feasibility of hydroponics at individual building scale to start hydroponics in our school. thanks in advance

  • http://shop.ebay.in/atulkalaskar/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=&_trksid=p4340 Atul Kalaskar

    Now you can buy all the nutrients on e-bay.
    Please visit ebay and search hydroponics nutrient mix

    Regards

    Atul Kalaskar
    atulkalaskar@yahoo.com

  • hussain

    hi..can you send me your contact details, we are looking to set up a hydroponic farm in GCC.

  • deepali

    hi atul,
    wonderful work.have u ever tried aquaponics for cost effectiveness?

  • http://www.askthesaint.com Ramesh.Lakkaraju

    please let me know your contact no.

  • ayush

    hey atul uncle
    id like to know what are the components used in hydroponic
    asap

  • anurag singh

    Sir
    I am also interested in hydroponics cultivation, but don’t have enough resources as the budget is too high, can you suggest some alternate solutions for the same.

    Thanking you in anticipation.

    Regards

    Anurag Singh

  • sandeep gupta

    hi atul sir,
    wonderful work.I am also interested in hydroponics cultivation, but don’t have enough knowledge , can you suggest me about this ?

  • jyoti deshpande

    Dear sir i am very much interested in agro n ur concepts r new. i have agri land about 5 acares n at the age of 60 i am giving my time for farmers who really want to improve. i live at Gadhinglaj dist Kolhapur. Pl guide me n suggest ways for my farmers. Thanx. Jyoti Deshpande.

  • Arun

    Hello,

    I am a Microbiologist. I am very interested in Hydroponics. Please give me your contact details for more information.

  • uday kumar

    Hai sir,please give details about hydroponics &ur contact. Number

  • Nagesh Reddy

    really it is great , that i am searching for more and more for this
    hydroponic information present i am forming i apartment roof, learn
    myself whats it, it is useful and get our self good nutrient food for a
    family, i like to visit sir farm at once to know more , kindly send are
    give details of bhaskar sir pl my id gnrinfras@gmail.com kavitha madam
    pl direct me to sir pl