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01 February 2013 www.soillessgardening-india.

com

Dedicated to the Soilless Gardening Industry of India

Hydroponic Growing Mission


for India: Fighting Hunger,
Boosting Economy
read in this issue:
An Interview with Noucetta Kehdi from GHE
higher yields
are possible.

pass it on!
editorial

D Indian and worldwide manufacturers,


distributors, resellers and end-users of the
hydroponics products. Aditya Chaudhary
Publisher

It is our pleasure to introduce to you Soilless Gardening India, Indias


very own industrial magazine geared towards the soilless gardening
industry in India and around the world. In the magazine, published
in English, you will find profiles of leading Indian and worldwide
companies, educational articles, regional and worldwide soilless gardening
news and overviews. While we are committed to soilless gardening, we
will not limit ourselves to this field alone. We will go beyond it, and touch
upon the greenhouse business. Here, you will find articles and information
on equipment, market analysis, achievements and many other popular and
Sandesh Shingote
useful subjects. In every issue of the magazine, you will see an opening
Co-founder
letter from the CEO of a leading Indian soilless gardening company;
presenting their personal opinion and view for the industry, as well as
their industrial expectations, forecasts, and their company profile.

In the last 30 years, Western Europe and the US has presented proof that
the hydroponics and soilless technologies are not fiction, but something
real, with a strategic importance related to the survival of humankind.
Hydroponics is also popular in countries where regular agriculture is
possible only during short periods of the year, for example: Canada,
Scandinavian countries, and Russia. In the last few years this interest has
also grown to a noticeable size in India. We are sure that you all know the
current size and population of India, so there is no need to emphasize the
importance of agriculture.

Regardless of the achievements of Indian agriculture, it is more


than obvious that India will need help from alternative and modern
technologies to satisfy all local market needs.

The main purpose of our magazine and expo is to help the new industry
grow quickly, and implement achievements from all over the world. We
hope that you will appreciate and enjoy our publication and exhibition.

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | C


MISSION
"It is our Mission to take Hydroponics,
as a technology, to every Indian
household by reducing the barriers to
entry for all. It is our dream to see
every home and land owner adopt
this technique in India in the next
fifteen years".

VISION
Our vision is to see India as a power in
the field of horticulture. To wipe the
woes of every farmer in India in the
next twenty years by providing
cutting edge technology. We want
every Indian Farmer to say it with
pride "I am proud to be a farmer!"

PRODUCTS AND SERVICES OFFERED CONTACT INFORMATION:


1. Training in Simplified and Commercial Hydroponics 102 Saptagiri Meadows, 24th Main
2. Consultancy Services and installation of Urban Roof Top Hydroponic Gardens JP Nagar 5th Phase
3. Consultancy Services for Agronomy Bangalore 560078
4. Turnkey Installation of Commercial Hydroponics Greenhouses Karnataka State, India
5. Turnkey installation of Large scale Hydroponic Animal Fodder Systems (5-100 Tons/day)
6. Supply of world class Hydroponic Nutrients Mobile: 00 91 99022 11684
7. Supply of Simplified Hydroponics Hobby Kits 00 91 78294 48677
8. Supply of Coco Peat for Commercial Growers (RHP Quality) E-mail: coo@petbharoproject.co.in
9. Supply and Installation of Simple Backyard Greenhouses ceo@petbharoproject.co.in
10. Water Analysis Facilities urbanprojects@petbharoproject.co.in
contents

Issue 01, February 2013

01 FEBRUARY 2013 www.soillessgardening-india.com


news&events
04 BrightFarms to Build a Gigantic Rooftop Farm in New York
05 Introduction of Wilma System from Atami
05 All-in-one Fertiliser Based on Bat Manure from Plagron: Ultimate Treat
Dedicated to the Soilless Gardening Industry of India

for your Plants


06 Black Tomatoes Grow in Israel
06 Farmers to Get Online Advice on Fertilizer Use
07 Greenhouse Farming Answer to Rampage by Global Warming
08 10-member Metro-Food Delegation From Michigan State University to
Visit Next Month
Hydroponic Growing Mission
for India: Fighting Hunger, 08 Gurgaon to Get High-tech Greenhouse
Boosting Economy

who is who
read in this issue:
An Interview with Noucetta Kehdi from GHE

<Publisher: 10 Interview with CV Prakash from The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics


Aditya Chaudhary 18 Interview with Noucetta Kehdi from General Hydroponics
publisher@soillessgardening-india.com
< Co-founder:
Sandesh Shingote
sandesh@soillessgardening-india.com
General Hydroponics pages
<Editor:
Mr. R Venkatesh
24 Hydroponics, What Can You Grow? Herbs and Salads
editor@soillessgardening-india.com
<Graphic design and prepress: PublishEast Ltd.
art@soillessgardening-india.com
cover story
<Webmaster: 26 Hydroponic Growing Mission for India: Fighting Hunger,
Ms. Sunita
webmaster@soillessgardening-india.com
Boosting Economy
<Support-Asia:
Ms. Mona soilless technologies 101
support-asia@soillessgardening-india.com
<Support-US/CD/EU: 32 Hydroponics and Its Types
Ms. Bekir 38 The Potential of Hydroponics
support-us/cd/eu@soillessgardening-india.com

questions & answers


44 In Search of the Adequate Substrate

Contact information:

Soilless Gardening India Magazine


Office No 6,
MS House,
Opp. Metro Pillar No 57,
index
Sikanderpur,
Gurgaon 122004, Haryana, INDIA 17 Advanced Nutrients
BC GHE
Mob: +91 828 573 0000 09 Grotek Canada
Fax: +91 124 400 2532 IBC Greentech India
47 HydronponEast Expo
support-asia@soillessgardening-india.com 02 Hydroponic Greenhouse Technologies India private Ltd.
support-us/cd/eu@soillessgardening-india.com IFC Plagron
http://soillessgardening-india.com 37 Technaflora Canada

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 3


news&events

BrightFarms | US

BrightFarms to Build a
Gigantic Rooftop Farm in New York

A gigantic rooftop farm inside


of a hydroponic greenhouse
will be built on top of an
abandoned warehouse in Sunset
Park, Brooklyn, announced
BrightFarms. Construction could
begin as early as the third quarter
of this year, with an expected
opening in early 2013.

Claiming to be the worlds largest


rooftop farm, the multiacre farm
will be built on 100,000 square
feet of rooftop space, establishing
a new national model for urban
agriculture, according to a
release.

Up to 1 million pounds of
produce, including tomatoes,
lettuces, and herbs, will be grown
every year.

BrightFarms will sell the produce


to a supermarket, according to a
spokesperson.

BrightFarms is partnering with


Salmar Properties to create
the farm. Salmar is currently
redeveloping the 1.1 million-
square-foot abandoned
warehouse after buying the BrightFarms has been
About BrightFarms:
property for $10 million last involved with multiple
May, according to a mayors projects in the city, BrightFarms designs, finances, builds
office document. The company including building instructive and operates hydroponic greenhouse
is investing approximately $35 greenhouses for Brooklyns farms at, or near, supermarkets,
million to turn the warehouse Cypress Hills Community eliminating time, distance and cost
into an industrial center. The city School and the Manhattan from the food supply chain.
expects 1,700 new jobs from the School for Children on the www.brightfarms.com

development. Upper West Side.

4 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


news&events

Atami | Netherlands Plagron | Netherlands

Introduction of All-in-one Fertiliser Based


Wilma System on Bat Manure from Plagron:
from Atami Ultimate Treat for your Plants
The co-developed Atami Wilma System Every night, nature is busy making the most nutritious
by Atami BV has been a worldwide fertiliser we know: bat guano, or pure bat manure, is
success since its launch, which is the ultimate organic plant treatment. The term guano
particularly due to the combination of originates from Peru, and is used to distinguish the
versatility, quality and simplicity. nutrient-rich waste produced by cormorants, pelicans and
other seabirds from other useless bird excrement.

Bat guano is the best, most balanced fertiliser nature


has to offer. Plagron Bat Guano is found in caves deep
in the jungles of Cuba, the Philippines and Indonesia,
excreted at night by hunting bats. Because the bats
live deep in the caves the fertiliser is protected against
sun and wind and remains active for longer. Plagron
analyses every batch of Bat Guano that arrives in the
Netherlands and compiles the ultimate mix. The best of
two continents in a single product!

Full of organic elements

Every plant will feel in top form because of the


This culture system is designed so that presence of countless active organic substances and
everyone can handle it, thus it can be used the extremely high nitrogen and phosphorus level in
at any location and ideal in combination Bat Guano (NPK 3154). The fertiliser also contains
with tents. useful fungi and bacteria that protect the plant. All these
elements aid strong root development and rapid growth,
The Wilma System is a tank and irrigation but also abundant flowering and therefore excellent
system in a set up and available as a yields. When growing in open ground, use 600 to 800
standalone, or in recirculating ebb and flood. g per 10 square metres. If you grow plants in potting
soil use 30 to 40 g per 100 litres. Rake the Bat Guano
The Wilma System scan be used in through the topsoil and water the soil afterwards for
combination with any medium; the pots extra fast effects.
are easy to install and easy to remove, if
necessary without removing the nutrition Total package
supply to the other pots.
Bat Guano stimulates root formation and the growth of
This highly versatile system is available in soil organisms, promotes healthy growth and flowering
6,5, 11 and 18L pots, using the easy setup and excellent fragrance and flavour. Visit www.plagron.com
and automatic feeding saves a lot of work for more information and to download the new Plagron
and you get great results in any medium. catalogue.

For more information you can visit us at www.atami.com


www.plagron.com

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 5


news&events

Ponics.ru The Hindu | INDIA

Black Tomatoes Farmers to Get


Grow in Israel Online Advice on
Fertilizer Use
Seeds Technologies Farmers can now get online information on the
Co. from Israel amount of fertilizers that they must apply to a
specialist in particular kind of soil and crop. This will help
hybrid vegetables them overcome the problem of over-use of
production fertilizer that is eroding soil health.
introduces Black
Galaxy (a new sort The Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Soil Science
of tomatoes). New has developed a web-based system that calculates
fruits color reminds the quantum and quality of fertilizers that should be
of that of plums. applied to the soil for targeted yield.
They are different
from regular red As of now, 11 States Andhra Pradesh, Bihar,
tomatoes not only in Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,
color. It is said that Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Tamil
darker fruits contain Nadu and West Bengal can avail themselves of
more vitamins as the system. The soil testing laboratories in these
well. States have shared data on the types of soils that
are available.
According to Ponics.
ru, the unusual The software takes into account the soil type in
color of the Black different districts of the country and available
Galaxy (the result nutrient in the soil. It takes into consideration
of crossing wild and the crop and cropping season in calculating the
cultivated sorts) is nutrient requirement. In some cases, it even
due to color pigment that reminds of takes care of different available varieties of main
that blueberry has. crops. Finally, the system converts the nutrient
data into specific quantities that should be used
Colored pigment is sensible to lights, that is why by the farmer.
the longer tomatoes stay exposed to the sun, the
darker they get. Institute Director A. Subba Rao told The Hindu
that they had undertaken fertilizer mapping of
Seed Technologies specialist Moshe Guttman a variety of soils. By December this year, the
says, dark fruits have higher concentration of institute will collect data in 170 districts of the
antioxidants and vitamin C that is why Black general properties of micronutrients for which
Galaxy can encourage strengthening of they were sanctioned a budget of Rs. 10 crore.
immune system.
In the Soil Test Crop Response-based Fertilizer
According to Guttman, Black Galaxy will be Recommendation System, a person has to key in
exported first and will start its world journey data about soil type, crop, season, district, crop
from luxury hotels where it will be served as a variety and area to get the quantum of fertilizer
special treat. that is to be used.
Source: ponics.ru
www.thehindu.com

6 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


news&events

The Hindu | INDIA

Greenhouse Farming Answer to


Rampage by Global Warming

As warming of the climate Sanjay Parade, training While over 1,30,000 hectares
gathers alarming pace posing coordinator and manager of the of area were under flower
a danger to agriculture, Horticulture Training Center cultivation in the country, only
greenhouse cultivation is the (HTC), Pune said that the gradual 1,100 hectares now come under
only answer to save crops of warming of temperature would protected cultivation, the HTC
flowers and vegetables, experts finally tell on flower production manager said.
have said. in the country. India is a major
exporter of flowers. He pointed out while farmers
Greenhouse farming, which is in several other states like
cultivation of plants inside a In the wake of the climate Maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal
building with glass walls and change, greenhouse farming is Pradesh, Karnataka and
roof under controlled condition, the only way to protect crops and Andhra Pradesh adopted the
has become necessary as manage a better yield than in greenhouse technology; the
temperature ideally required for normal condition. Farming under farmers in Orissa were yet to
flower cultivation is no longer controlled condition, Parade said, start on it.
available, not even during winter. protects crops from wind, rain,
radiation, and precipitation. In Orissa, head of the Flowers
Floriculturists say that the ideal Growers Association Nirmal
day and night temperatures for HTC is imparting training to Nayak said, 6000 hectares in
flower cultivation are 28 and 18 farmers in greenhouse technology Orissa were at present under
degrees Celsius respectively. for higher productivity, he said. flower cultivation. He said out
Also 20 per cent subsidy was of a total of 6,55,000 metric
However, they point out, the given for the greenhouse flower tons of flowers produced in the
temperature in most parts of the cultivation, a senior assistant country, 80 per cent are Indian
country remained above this level director of the National Horticulture roses, 10 per cent are gerbera
even in the peak winter season. Board, S C Panwar, said. and jasmine.
www.thehindu.com

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 7


news&events

The Hindu Business Line | INDIA The Times of India | INDIA

10-member Metro-Food Gurgaon to


Delegation From Michigan State Get High-tech
University to Visit Next Month Greenhouse
Forget about urban agriculture safety and gourmet requirements. Gurgaon administration's new
that seeks to grow crops over The Michigan State University has technology-driven agricultural initiative,
rooftops. India will get a taste evolved technologies and methods a 'high-tech greenhouse', is nearing the
of Metropolitan agriculture to ensure all these are achieved. date of its inauguration. According to
when a 10member delegation sources, the facility was awaiting the
from Michigan State University Metro agriculture is being sanction of a power connection for the
(the US), which has evolved practiced in cities such as Detroit last few months, and with this job now
concepts and technologies on and in the Netherlands. They done, talks have begun to make the
Metropolitan Agriculture, visits could establish integrated value greenhouse operational.
India next month. chain that includes an efficient
According to the blueprints of the
Commercial Agriculture project, the Gurgaon-based greenhouse
will be used to improve agricultural
production in Haryana by growing
Organic & Environmental Metropolitan Urban high-yield and high-quality fruits and
Conservation Agriculture Agriculture Agriculture
vegetables. "The plantation will be done
using a new Israeli irrigation technology
The Federation of Indian supply chain. This is what urban that was very recently introduced in
Chamber of Commerce and population would require, J.A. Haryana," said an official.
Industry (FICCI) will sign an Chowdary, Chair of Food 360
agreement with the university degrees, a FICCI event to be held Instead of being dependent on the heat
as it sets up Food 360 degrees in November. The Michigan varsity produced by the sun, as greenhouses
Foundation to popularize model comprises a Product Centre generally are, the new facility will have
Metropolitan Agriculture in India. that works with consumers and a temperature regulation unit of its
producer groups to understand own. "Depending on the kind of crops,
You should not mistake urban their aspirations and challenges and the amount of heat needed, the
agriculture with Metropolitan in achieving them. It works with temperatures within the high-tech
Agriculture. Urban agriculture a different kind of PPP People, greenhouse will be controlled," the
could just be one component Planet and Profits. Technology official added.
of the latter. Metropolitan plays a significant role in this.
Agriculture is a holistic approach The product center has a set Setting the greenhouse-spread over an
to the food culture needs of technologies for achieving area of more than 2,000 square meter
of the urban areas, Kalyan the objectives of Metropolitan has cost around Rs 76 lakh, according
Chakravarthy, IFFCO Kisan agriculture, Kalyan said. to official reports. A similar electricity
Special Economic Zone, told controlled greenhouse is coming up in
Business Line. The supply and Incidentally, the Government of the Rohtak district. "Such setups are
demand sides of food needs Andhra Pradesh too has begun important as they will help the state
of the urban population have work in this direction. It recently improve its crop yield. It will also make
changed significantly. The organized workshops on farming available seedlings of better quality to
demand is also inextricably in urban setting. Haryana's farmers," the official said.
linked to specific set of quality, www.thehindubusinessline.com
www.timeofindia.indiatimes.com

8 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


who is who

Interview with CV Prakash


from The Institute of
Simplified Hydroponics
What was the inspiration behind by way of conducting training of project of great purport and a
this project? Who are the key master trainers between the 16th very distant vision. It aims to:
persons involved in this and what Jan 2009 and 15th Feb 2009. Ms 1. To bring to the most
is their experience in this field? Peggy Bradley, Mr. Andrew Andy disadvantaged people a system
Loughrin, Ms Sangeeta Bojappa, of cultivation where in very
Initially I was involved in and myself were the key players small spaces, could be grown
commercial high cost, high in this project. almost all kinds of vegetables,
technology hydroponic fruits and herbs that are needed
greenhouse systems. I tried to Can you brief us on the mission on a daily basis.
find a market for such systems and vision of Pet Bharo Project? 2. To bring the most
in India, but found high barriers affordable technology for a family
to entry. There existed not a Yes the Vision and Mission of the (4-6 people) that costs less than
single hydroponic system in the Pet Bharo Project is as follows: 110 USD for building a small
country, at that time. Then, one The core purpose of the project 20m2 micro-garden that produces
day, I read Bankers to the Poor is to empower the disadvantaged 2 kilograms of nutritious,
about Mohammad Yunus great people of the Indian society by pesticide free, food per day.
work in the field of Micro Finance training, educating, motivating, 3. To bring a form of
and how technologies made and,micro-financing them to technology that does not require
simple could help the poorest achieve sustainability and a means any prior agricultural knowledge
and weakest sections of society. to livelihood. Thus ensuring that or special literacy.
Thus a burning desire to bring we lift them to a life of dignity 4. To use very minimal water to
hydroponics to my country of birth and hope. We expect to create produce the vegetables, fruits and
was born in my heart, in a very in the poorest people a spirit of herbs including reuse of the nutrient
simple and affordable way. self-esteem and entrepreneurship water on a continuous basis.
by the introduction of Simplified 5. To provide, in the most
They say, Good intent is followed Hydroponics, or the science of efficient and cheapest manner,
by finding the right people and Soil-less Cultivation. The ISHs nutrition for all people by
solutions, and I was led to find core purpose is to eliminate the teaching the methods of Simple
Ms Peggy Bradley, Executive scourge of hunger and poverty Hydroponics.
Director of the Institute of that has been the bane of India for 6. By providing nutritious
Simplified Hydroponics in the the past several decades within food, aimed to reduce the
United States. The pioneering ten years with the participation burdens on state health care
work that she had done, to lift of its citizens, institutions and systems and also improve life
many thousands of people from government bodies including world expectancy, healthy pregnancies
poverty and hunger, inspired bodies like the UN FAO. and healthy children.
me to launch this technology in 7. To provide simple
India by way of the Pet Bharo To explain in a little more detail technology for cultivation; that
Project. The Project was launched the Pet Bharo Project is a helps the weakest sections of

10 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


who is who

society reach sustain ability and dependence on neighboring and germ free produce available
achieve a means for livelihood states which have benefits like: to the poorest of the people
and instill a spirit of dignity and People grow most daily Has a tremendous effect for
hope through entrepreneurship. requirements locally in their area health and longevity.
8. To stop the exodus of people itself thus bringing down their S ame people can become
from the rural areas moving into dependency on the markets that entrepreneurs by selling their
the cities, thus relieving the burden fluctuate incessantly, in terms of excess produce to the markets
on city infrastructure. costs and regular availability. directly thus bringing them out
9. To help people adopt No worry during Bandhs, of the poverty line and improving
a simple, inexpensive green, Hartals etc as people need not go their lifestyles.
pesticide free technology for anywhere to buy their daily food. No land is uncultivable any more
cultivation and help use every Less number of trucks as soil is not a factor any longer.
piece of land available to and transport vehicles used Ability to grow organic produce
produce vegetables, fruits and for carrying vegetables long by use of natural manure and
herbs using very little expense distances thus reducing compost like chicken manure.
for day to day running of the fuel consumption as well as Ability to run a small micro-
system for maximum benefit. greenhouse emissions. garden of 20m2 with less than 50
10. To grow almost all kinds of Middleman in the fresh produce USD per year.
vegetables, fruits and herbs within business will be eliminated. Ability for the government to
your own state itself thus reducing Clean, hygienic, pesticide, support the poor by provisioning

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 11


who is who

for the needy micro-credit loans Moreover, neither the produce What type of protective structure
at highly low cost (less than 200 nor the environments are is needed to protect the garden
USD per family) which can be contaminated by chemicals. from difficult climates?
run like a normal banking system. Higher yields and shorter times
(Ref: Mohammad Yunus, Nobel between harvests. Hence, total A simple, inexpensive, shade
Peace Prize winner 2006, Founder output is greater than the case of net with appropriate shade-to-
and Father of world micro-credit conventional soil systems. sun ratio can be procured from
system called Grameen Bank) Easy to learn the technique any agricultural product supplier
is easy to understand, it does not to protect plants from excessive
What is Simplified Hydroponics? require prior knowledge and con- sunlight. Also, a reasonably thick
crete results are achieved quickly. polythene sheet can keep the
Simplified Hydroponics, which Simplified Hydroponics is not garden safe from rain.
was developed in Latin America, highly technological and requires
is a suitable technological only household labor. How do you protect the plants
package that can be easily Use of recycled materials it is from pests and weeds without the
adapted to the conditions of possible to use recycled materials use of chemicals?
urban areas and the urban to build growing systems.
periphery, in the following ways: Subsequently, growers can This is an interesting question.
First, the production system use materials they already have We go back to basics here. From
is isolated from the soil. Planting on hand, e.g. wood, disposable the beginning of time, man has
takes place at a convenient packaging materials. used only simple herbal methods
height, where soil pollution has no Simplified Hydroponics is a to ward of pest and insect attacks.
impact. It allows for vegetables to source of income from direct We encourage the growers to use
be produced without land and in sales, and in family or community Neem and garlic Sprays in their
small physical spaces. owned micro-enterprises. gardens, which can sufficiently
Plants are grown in water In simple terms, it is possible to deter most any enemies. In
containers or in lowcost natural grow high quality, safe foodstuffs addition, we also use mechanical
substrates (sand, rice husk, using Simplified Hydroponics tech- insect traps made of old plywood
pumice, etc.). With this system, it niques. Fruit and vegetables have that are anointed with used engine/
is possible to grow a vast range a high biological and dietary value. motor oil or light waste grease that
of vegetables. For example: Crops for household attracts different flying predators
lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, celery, consumption are harvested and these insects get stuck to the
watercress, eggplants, beans, when they are ready to be used. traps. The most common colors
parsley, wild radish, leeks, Hence, produce is fresh and used are bright yellow or blue
strawberries, melons, aromatic has its nutritional and medicinal jackets draped over the plywood.
and medicinal plants, etc. properties intact (vitamins, These traps are kept beside the
Use of limited space. One the minerals, phyto-nutrients, etc). table growers. Another natural
main advantages of Simplified method used is by trap cropping,
Hydroponics is the possibility of What is the cost involved to set catch cropping, or companion
using urban spaces which, until up a hydroponic garden? cropping. For example , when we
now, had not been considered grow mint, we grow cabbage, and
adequate for growing food (patios, A 20m2 garden that can produce tomatoes alongside it. This causes
small gardens, party walls, up to 2 kilograms of fresh a conflict as insects get confused
balconies, rooftops) pesticide free vegetables should by the pheromones in the vicinity
High efficiency in the use of cost approximately 110120 USD and are safely vectored to look
irrigation water, where water is per garden if built by procuring, for another area of interest. We
recycled and does not pollute the locally available, recyclable also hang small length strips of old
environment. materials. The running cost of the cassette tapes on the periphery
Pest, disease and weed con- garden should be approximately of the garden that is used to ward
trolled by natural herbal methods. 100110 USD per year. off predator birds. Similarly, we

12 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


who is who

one can get especially for our


system.

How can the excess produce be


marketed?
The excess produce can be
marketed in a variety of ways.
To explain a few of them for
example; any excess produce
that is produced by someone
growing in a home garden can
be supplied to a nearby grocery
shop or among colony members.
In fact, we suggest people living
in gated communities to grow
different types of vegetables and
herbs so that they may barter
their produce within their locality.
Community garden participants
used clear plastic bags filled with with the right pH/total dissolved
can sell their produce every day
water to vector insects during the solids. Where good quality water
to local supermarkets or even
day as the reflection/refraction of is not available, we treat it by use
to push cart vendors. In fact
the sunlight through these bags of very inexpensive methods to
there is a niche market that will
cause homing in difficult due to make that water usable. When we
be willing to buy freshly picked,
the compound eyes of the insects. say that we recycle the nutrient
pesticide free veggies and herbs
This is not a complete list and we mean that the excess nutrient
especially in the cities. ISH plans
we have learnt from many of our water drained out is collected and
students, recently, that many home reused in the grower bed. In our to discuss with the government
grown natural methods have been system the water is poured into the bodies to arrange buy back from
used by farmers successfully in grower bed and allows the nutrient such cultivators and sell this
many parts of India for thousands water to drain off as the aim is kind of produce even through
of years. We also encourage the wetting of the root environment. agencies like HOPCOMS, Safal
use of beneficial insects to attack This draining is done by the fact outlets, etc.
and kill unwanted pests. that the substrates we use have
a high degree of porosity that How many people have you
In this age of apartments and facilitates this requirement. There trained so far? What are your
sky scrapers, how would you is really no need for any machinery coveted projects so far? And
plan the usage of water? When or extra energy to be expended what is the running project
you say water is recycled, do you for this purpose. In fact, we are right now?
mean the used water? Do you discussing with the Architects
propose machinery to clean the Association of India about how We started the Pet Bharo Project
used water for this purpose? How they may consider spaces for with an awareness campaign
economical will it be? hydroponics in apartments and wherein the ISH participated
areas where they build their in the Kisan Mela held at the
This again is a great question. The complexes and are asking them to University of Agricultural Sciences
good news is that our system of incorporate rain water-harvesting Bangalore in November 2008 and
Simplified Hydroponics requires systems that can help residents the mention of soil-less cultivation
just about 1/10th to 1/20th of the use hydroponics. This goes for all received overwhelming response
water used in soil cultivation. Our practitioners wherever they may and interest. Since my arrival,
system calls for good quality water live. Rainwater is the best water in India, in late October 2008, I

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 13


who is who

have addressed a myriad number cater to the needs of the children personnel from our ISH Chapters
of people. This consisted of one- living at this hostel. The garden is in all Indian states, conduct R&D
on-one presentations, home expected to provide nearly 22.5 in growing nutritional vegetables
presentations, presentations kilos of pesticide free, freshly and herbs, medicinal and
to tens of clubs in Bangalore picked, vegetables and herbs aromatic plants for the herbal
and other cities, government every single day. This is the first cosmetics and drugs sector. It
departments, Live TV shows and ever Hydroponic Vegetable is also intended to work closely
also found mention in many other Garden in India. ISH is happy with various Indian agricultural
media and a dozen newspapers, to have donated this garden for universities to study a bunch
domestic and national. Then free to the school apart from of easily grow-able vegetables
came the announcement of the having trained nearly 15 selected and herbs that will suit the local
Hydroponics Training course and students and 5 teachers of this environments and provide good,
the response we received was school. Certain Rotary clubs in clean, affordable food for the
overwhelming, from every corner Bangalore, that have sponsored people at long last.
of India including areas of the many schools in and around
North East like Nagaland. A total Bangalore, have approached What is the success ratio of this
of 126 students have been trained the ISH to train and help set up project in other countries so far?
so far as master trainers. The such gardens for their children. Are these countries continuing
training project was conducted in We are happy to have launched using this technique?
a rural school in Kothanur, North the Pet Bharo project and are
Bangalore, called the Sandra looking forward to our next phase The success ratio of this project in
Ricketts Public School, which also of training. We are flooded with most countries has been between
houses about 2025 children; requests from various state 4090 percent. The reasons for
some of who are orphans organizations to come over and low success in some countries
and from very disadvantaged train people in this unique growing has been due to factors like
backgrounds. ISH Bangalore methodology. Our immediate aim availability of necessary nutrients
has, during the course of this is to locate and set up a brick locally, lack of institutional and
training, helped by the trainees and mortar institute at Rural state support for the program,
who participated, set up a 25m2 Bangalore for the ISH wherein we war torn areas, etc. No failure is
vegetable and herb gardens to are planning to conduct training of attributed to failure of hydroponics
at any time. Of course, countries
are continuing to use this system
with the environmental conditions
and global warming causing
havoc; this is the answer for the
immediate future.

How far has your participation


in the University of Agricultural
Sciences, Bangalore, popularized
your technique?

You know, I knew from the


beginning that convincing any
institution or individual about the
Simplified Hydroponics system
needed me to first establish
a working model that I could
show to prove the concept. I
had to walk the talk and am

14 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


who is who

ready to show the idea that project of the 21st century. We (NHRDF), Nasik, as well as
has now become a reality. We also expect the Central and from the Jammu and Kashmir
are in the process of inviting State governments to introduce Agri-Business Development
the University professors and Simplified Hydroponics as a part Corporation asking us to assist
scientists from UAS Bangalore of the extra-curricular syllabus in spreading this in their areas of
and from other universities from wherein every child is taught interest. This is only the tip of the
India and we also envisage joint how to become self-sufficient in iceberg I would say, at this point.
R&D cooperation. ISH is sure growing their own food for now
that the universities will now be and in the future. Working in a Can you tell us about this
quite convinced and will help the green garden is a great hobby school in Bangalore, where you
spread of this technology through for children and can divert them have established a hydroponic
their wide extension networks. from frivolous activities that gain garden?
nothing. We can build a trained I have already mentioned about
Can an ordinary man get food producing army in the this wonderful school in an earlier
financial assistance from banks years and decades to come, by question. See question #9.
for establishing a hydroponic sustained efforts.
garden? What are the salient features to
What types of seeds are required be taken note by an individual
I see no reason why not? Here for this type of garden? Where before establishing this garden?
we need the help of NGOs and are they available?
Micro-Credit institutions. Since The salient features that need to
the costs of setting up these Nice question. Simplified be kept in mind are as follows:
types of systems are low value Hydroponics does not encourage Find a space with adequate
they make an ideal candidate for GM seeds as such and ask sunlight availability
micro-finance and creditors. Our people using this technique Test the water source for pH/
Simplified Hydroponics system to buy locally available seeds TDS/EC etc., at a laboratory.
is meant to address the bane for the first time. Every taluk Your water filter supplier could
of poverty and hunger in India and district in India has a seed help.
and aims to create sustainability supplier of a reputable nature. Identify the necessary
and livelihood. I am sure with The National Seeds Corporation recyclable materials locally
the efforts of NGOs/MFIs and also sells subsidized seeds for available to start the garden. A
state and central governments, people. Once the people start diligent study needs to be done
including UN FAO, it is an to propagate their own produce to source the cheapest, yet
achievable thing. In President they are encouraged to save perfect material for the garden.
Obamas words Yes, We can. seeds at their location like our Identify seed companies in
forefathers did, for further use; the area and buy just a few
What is the response from the thus, eliminating any extra grams of seeds, of say one or
Government of India for this costs in future running of their two vegetables at first.
project? Have they expressed gardens. Learn and master
their willingness to help you the technique, including
popularize this scheme? Have you entered into any tie-up understanding the underlying
with agricultural societies or principles of Hydroponics.
I mentioned, earlier in this farmers groups for spreading this Understand plant growth
interview, that all institutions technique among the farmers characteristics by watching them
need proof and there is and individuals? every day and also learn to
living proof now to make the identify the insects and use of
government take notice. I am Interest is building up, and we herbal sprays to ward them off.
sure we will be much sought already have enquiries from The Keep a logbook to record
after by most governments to National Horticultural Research everything you do from seeding
take this project as a unique Development Foundation to harvest. This is a great

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 15


who is who

reckoner in the beginning, as horticulture institutions in India who had no background


one can correct any mistakes including senior experts from whatsoever neither personally
made. various walks of agriculture nor from my family side in the
Start in a conservative way including retired professors and field of agriculture. However,
by using small grower tubs and scientists on our panel. We intend this is now a passion and I live
only after getting a hang of to work closely with Universities and breathe hydroponics and
the system one must scale up and Research institutions to believe in my idea and in this
production. This goes for even spread Simplified Hydroponics system. I do know that this is
those wishing to do commercial at a rapid rate in India. The the answer for the present and
scale operations. ISH Bangalore Campus will future to come what with the
Hydroponics is a very house a library, nutrient lab, state of the soils/indiscriminate
unforgiving system in that; it and classrooms for Theory and use of chemical pesticides/poor
does not give a wide margin for Outdoor Training/R&D labs to availability and quality of water
error. There is a procedure laid grow medicinal/aromatic plants for resources/labor shortages in
down in a checklist, the following the herbal drugs and cosmetics rural areas/rapid urbanization/
of which is a must and there is industry and will collaborate with environmental pollution due
not much of options. It calls for such companies both in India and to run-off etc. I have faced
diligence, attention to detail, abroad in joint ventures. Also, criticism/cynics/supporters and
and a will to rise above initial the ISH is now in the process of all kinds of challenges to bring
challenges. These taken care; identify groups of vegetables and this technology to India all on
it can be most rewarding and herbs that are unique to each part my own steam without a cent
satisfying too. of India and will come up with of support. I believe that other
The ISH is always at hand to tables to suggest what may be than CSR (Corporate Social
help when problems arise. grown and eaten to help keep up Responsibility) there is PSR
with the basic nutritional values. (Personal Social Responsibility).
What are your future plans? The ISH plans are only limited One does not have to have
by the imagination and there is a money to discharge his PSR.
Our immediate goals are to lot to come in the near future. We Even picking up a piece of paper
continue training people in this are living in exciting times I can and putting the same into a
system as master trainers, do tell you that. A silent revolution waste paper basket achieves
more awareness campaigns is in the making. Watch for PSR and contributes to a clean
in all states of India, establish developments closely. and sterile green environment.
and support model gardens in I think every Indian must rise to
every state through ISH local How many people are presently the challenges of the times. We
chapters. ISH HQs in Bangalore working with your establishment must remember that what we do
is now looking for passionate in India and abroad? now will have a great impact for
individuals and companies to the earth, our children and future
become our exclusive franchises/ We are a group of 6 people in generations. I believe that efforts
chapters in all Indian states. We Australia and 2 from the United do fail but we must not fail to
plan to support and continuously States. In India we have, so far, make efforts. I have like the old
provide input to help make built a small team of about 10 men said starting from where
them successful in their own people and are expected to take I am, not from where I would
areas of operation. The ISH is in many more members. like to be. We will surely get
now in the process of locating there with the involvement of all
a suitable place to set up a Would you like to add anything Indians. Its not about me, Its
permanent institution/campus more, apart from what we about We. We can still make a
in an area of about 5 acres in a discussed here so far? change! Jai Hind!
rural Bangalore. The institution
http://petbharoproject.co.in

will have trained faculty from All I would like to say is this; I
within and from other agriculture/ am an ex Indian Naval Officer

16 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


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who is who

Interview with
Noucetta Kehdi from
General Hydroponics
General Hydroponics | Europe

Can we clear some


confusion here; is GHE
a subsidiary of GH US,
or is it a completely
independent company? Is
GHE responsible only for
the European markets,
or are you covering other
world markets as well?
For example, are you or
GH US responsible for
India?
General Hydroponics was
created in California by Noucetta Kehdi and William Texier in their
Lawrence Brooke in the mid-70s. Fleurance (France) Greenhouse
The company developed very
fast in a few years, and demand founded General Hydroponics Before we continue with
for its products, especially Flora Europe there, in 1995. With
Series and the AquaFarm, Lawrence and Eliana Brooke, the rest of the questions,
started to come flowing from and Dr. Cal Herrmann as can you briefly tell us
abroad, mainly from Europe.
At that time William Texier and
associates. how you and William are
myself were working with GH William Texier and myself related to the hydroponics
testing products at the White manage GHE independently. industry? How many years
Owl WaterFarm, while they
were being invented at General
We have total decision on
product line, market needs
of experience do you have
Hydroponics. We knew a lot and sales in Europe, Asia in this field?
about hydroponics and GH, we and Africa. We are the ones
were the only ones able to export responsible of our introduction William Texier started
this new concept and succeed, on the Indian market, and are hydroponics in 1987, when he
so we went to France and looking forward to it. was introduced to Lawrence

18 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


who is who

Brooke. He first began with followed by a second one. But I noticed that you have
a small garden at home. In our growth was such that we
1990, with Noucetta Kehdi, had to build our own units, first
a very nice greenhouse.
they created the White Owl 1200 m2, then 1600, and today, Why do you need it? How
WaterFarm in Sebastopol, 17 years later, we own a total many different plants and
California; a hydroponics of 4600 m 2 of buildings. We
greenhouse growing colored manufacture as many of our
vegetable plants have you
sweet peppers and Genovese products as we can in-house, to tested here?
basil for the restaurants in keep close control on quality and
the Bay Area, north of San service. We regularly update our Our greenhouse is our window,
Francisco. So, our experience production tools in prevision of our research laboratory,
goes back more than 25 years expansion. Today, we are ready and showcase. People dont
growing an innumerable variety to serve an expanding market generally know much about
of plants. with no doubt. hydroponics, except when they
are shown industrial farms
with endless rows of tasteless
tomatoes High quality
hydroponics is still unknown by
the main public. So, we need to
show the way it works, and we
need to prove it does.

In our greenhouse, we grow all


sorts of plants. Most of them in
hydroponics, but we also have
beautiful soil-grown plants. Some
of our plants are 10 to 15 years
old, still growing in the same
AquaFarm! The greenhouse
is also our demonstration and
testing unit. This is where
we conduct our tests for new
White Owl WaterFarm

What do you have as a


production facility in
France? Is it enough to
cover all of the European,
and the rest of your
market needs?
In France, we have been
manufacturing our products
since the very first days. We
started (in our laundry-room
with a 100 L drum) renting a
Manufacturing AeroFlo chambers in-house
small industrial building, rapidly

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 19


who is who

products. Every year we do at


least seven to ten different tests
on different products, or growing
processes. This is also where
we keep our collection of the
plants we have gathered over
the years, an amazing diversity
of rare, exotic, aromatic, or
therapeutic specimens from all
over the world.

I also noticed that in


your new plant you have
some very modern and
expensive machines,
producing hydroponics
systems. What is the ratio
between your nutrients
and systems? Based on GHE greenhouse, Fleurance, France
the market prices, I know
that your systems are
not among the cheapest
ones, but still you are
manufacturing and
selling plenty of them (at
least in Europe). How do
explain this fact? Why do
you think that customers
are ready to pay higher
prices for GHE systems?
We have been designing and
manufacturing our own systems
for thirty years now. Our
knowledge is based on science
and also on experience. So, we
build the best systems possible,
and growers are confident when
they buy our systems, that they
are highly efficient machines, and
not just some assembled tubing...

We sell nearly as much systems


as plant foods. People know

20 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


who is who

that we are the only company couple of contacts with potential hydroponics, from the very
with such wide expertise in distributors, but nothing has start. And we guarantee a very
hydroponics as well as plant materialized yet. I know it's a fast follow up to make sure our
nutrition. We remain at the edge huge country, and it will develop clients obtain the best results.
of our industry by continuously naturally.
researching the best solutions Next year the Soilless
to grow not only larger and
heavier plants, but also plants
What kind of after-sales Gardening-India magazine
with aroma, taste, and nutritious support do you offer is organizing a conference
qualities. your customers? I see so and mini-expo in Mumbai.
many printed materials Would you be interested
During my visit, I noticed in your warehouse, full in participating and
that your lading bin was with information. How supporting this historic
all the time busy with do you distribute this event?
activities. What is your knowledge?
shipment policy? Do you We are always happy to support
sell only to distributors, As I said before, hydroponics a first event in hydroponics. We
did so in Moscow in September
or do you also sell to is not very well known, and
spreading information is one of 2012 with HydroponEast
some smaller shops and our main goals. Not only about magazine, and it was a success.
customers? How about our products, but also about the It will be a pleasure to meet our
Indian counterparts and share
your strategies to India? technology we carry, its unique
information and new projects
advantages, and its innumerable
Do you have a distributor applications. Also, it is very together.
in India? If not, are you important for us that our clients
open for proposals from are successful, and to do so, You and William are well-
India? This is a huge
they sometimes need our help. known travelers and have
country. Do you plan Our company has specialized
seen many countries and
working only with one in hydroponics since 1976. markets. What are your
distributor, or you can General Hydroponics is a team forecasts for the Indian
of plant lovers, with amazing
have 23 from different scientific and field skills. Over
market? As a population,
regions of the country? the years we have grown it is six times bigger
more than 500 different plant than the US population.
species in our greenhouses, in
We generally sell our products
our systems, with our nutrients
Can we expect, one day,
through distributors: one or
several per country, depending and supplements. We have to see a six times larger
on market structure. We tremendous knowledge and love hydroponics market?
give no exclusivity, but are to share it.
known to remain loyal to our The Indian market is very big
commitments. Our goal is a You are right, our website indeed. Just to think of those
successful relationship, and a displays a very wide array of huge megalopolis, like New Delhi
win-win situation for all. We like information, and our catalogue or Mumbai, and the possibility
working with local companies, profusely describes our to create in-city, local food
they know regulations, market products, their effects, and production facilities, is a great
needs, and they can provide fast their applications. We educate endeavor and a challenge. But
service. In India we have had a our new customers about we like challenges, and are

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 21


who is who

always happy to pioneer new


initiatives. Also many young
Indians coming back from their
studies abroad know about
hydroponics, and their inquiries
are more elaborate than they
were in the past, showing more
maturity among our public.

Also India is home to an


amazing variety of plants, and
innumerable medicinal, aromatic,
and rare plants, some of them
we know and have been growing
our selves in our greenhouses.
As you may know, our nutrients
are specifically designed to
Iris variety from Munnar, Kerala, India, growing in an AquaFarm
increase the active principle
contents (aroma, taste, potency,
therapeutic content) in plants.
Indians will love our nutrients, those who asked for it, William
and so will their plants! Texier decided to design an
organic nutrient that would
To respond to different be complete and efficient,
sensitivities, we offer a wide and especially, would work
range of nutrients: in hydroponics. It took him a
For hydro, Flora Series a lot of hard work, four to five
highly precise 3-part nutrient years of intensive research,
known worldwide for its testing, failing and trying again,
consistency and efficiency, for before reaching exactly what
bioponics (organic hydroponics), he was aiming at: a highly
BioSevia for those who choose efficient plant food, that works
to go hydroponics but want to perfectly in hydroponics, and
use an organic nutrient, and for is also certifiable for organic
soil, General Organics a line of
cultivation. He patented his
certified organic plant food and
concept under the name of
supplements.
bioponics (or organic
hydroponics ) in 2005, and
I heard that William with this invention he created BioSevia complies with European
Texier invented BioSevia, an organic nutrient regulation on organic horticulture
"bioponics". What is that works for hydro.

bioponics? I hear that you have a General Hydroponics was


founded by Lawrence Brooke, and
For years, we have been
big R&D department, is supported by a group of scientists
asked if "hydroponics" could that so? from the Lawrence Berkeley
also be "organic". Considering Laboratory in Berkeley, California,
that the subject is extremely R&D is one of our most from the very first days. Their goal
controversial, we didn't get into developed departments. It is was to introduce hydroponics to
the debate. However, to serve extremely important to us. the public, a new way of gardening,

22 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


who is who

Hydroponics, today, is at the


right place at the right time. It
responds to a large number of
the needs our society is facing
today. Our market spreads
worldwide, and covers America,
Australia, and Europe all the way
to the most eastern states of
Russia. It is in continuous growth
as new countries are joining us
like India, and the whole South
American continent!

Growers from very different


horizons contact us today: plant
collectors like bonsais, orchids,
or chili growers, urban gardeners
Preparing AeroFlos for testing in Davis University
who opted for home production
and/or roof farming, and more
and create new products and Even today we continue traditional farmers who would
technologies that grow healthy sponsoring scientific research like to find new ways of making a
plants. We were bringing nature and studies at the University living. Wherever they come from,
and technology together. of Davis, in California. We they generally are plant lovers
also have a very important who dedicate time and attention
to their gardens.
in-house team of highly
graduated engineers and
qualified researchers. We built Thank you, .
greenhouses in California and
France to conduct our tests. Thank you for your interest in our
We design and manufacture our technology, and I wish you good
own products with proprietary luck with your new magazine. If
formulas and concepts that the trend continues developing
often later become copied here as it is, there will be more and
or there on the planet. more people interested in our
technology. For all those who
This, along with a very ethical are looking for new projects,
market approach, allows us to and to help feed a hungry world,
hydroponics is an excellent
remain at the cutting edge of
alternative.
our industry, keep an image of
excellence among our public,
I hope we will continue
and serve our market with
collaborating with your magazine
efficiency.
and spread the information
on hydroponics as widely as
What do you think about possible. For more information,
the place of hydroponics please go to www.eurohydro.com
or visit our blog at www.ghe-blog.
in the future of plant com, when you wish.
Rooftop gardening production?
in Grenoble, France www.europhydro.com

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 23


General Hydroponics pages

Hydroponics,
what can you grow?
Herbs and Salads
Noucetta Kehdi GHE

P
roducing food nowadays
is becoming a real
challenge. With the
world population growing
at intensive pace, water
becoming scarcer every day,
and the ecological impact of
transportation, hydroponics is
the best choice for commercial
as well as home growing. Today
hydroponic auto production, in
small to medium scale family
farms and urban gardens, is
developing all over the world.

Among many advantages,


hydroponics allows you to
produce more (+ 20 to 30%)
high quality flowers and fruits,
save on water and nutrient
consumption, and grow fresh Why grow lettuce and salad country and urban gardens for
food everywhere, including greens? Salads are a healthy self-consumption or commercial
sterile and unproductive lands, food and a fast crop; they dont operations, and we guarantee
or in big cities and capitals. It need much space or investment. excellent quality of crops. Indeed
helps cutting down on expensive Most greens and a large range this is the future now!
intermediaries and shipping of aromatic herbs are simple to
costs and reducing our carbon grow, particularly recommended Lettuce has good nutritional
footprint. It is user-friendly so for beginners. At GHE, we created value, but all lettuces do
that any grower with a will can the concept of Family Farms. We not have identical nutritional
apply it successfully. promote small to medium size qualities. Generally speaking,

BRINGING NATURE AND TECHNOLOGY TOGETHER


24 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13
lettuce mainly contains Vitamin A, C, E, K, folate,
iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

There are different methods to grow lettuce and


herbs in hydroponics. In the past, many operations
used NFT channels, with mediocre crops and
consistent root disease and iron deficiencies. At
GHE, our favourite method is Aero-hydroponics,
and for greens, definitely the AeroFlos that
guarantee perfect oxygenation and bear high
temperatures better than any other system.

There are more than 100 varieties of lettuce


worldwide, generally divided in six main families:
Butterhead with large, soft, and tender leaves
and a buttery taste;
Crisphead, also called Iceberg, with tight, dense
heads that look like cabbage, generally crunchy
and sweet;
Young lettuce in an AeroFlo
Loose-leaf, with tender, delicate and mildly
flavoured leaves;
Cos, or Romaine, with long, sturdy leaves and a
firm rib down the centre;
Summer Crisp, also called Batavian, is an
intermediate between Crisphead and Looseleaf.
It forms moderately dense heads with a crunchy
texture;
Chinese lettuce, with a bitter and robust flavour.

Different varieties of lettuce need different


growing conditions. For most, nutrition is
generally maintained in the lower scale, with
an EC of 0.8 to 1.30 and a pH between 5.5 and
6.5. Generally, most salads grow better in a cool
environment, between 15 and 22C. Some heat
resistant varieties can grow in temperatures up to
30C, and some types will even grow in tropical
climates. Lettuces also prefer relatively low light.
Small size family farm
Youll notice that when the light is bright and
the temperature is high, most, especially those
that like cool temperatures, will tend to quickly
bolt and flower. Stress such as lack of moisture,
high EC, high light and root death will also act to
speed up the bolting.
To be continued...

BRINGING NATURE AND TECHNOLOGY TOGETHER


Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 25
cover story

Hydroponic Growing
Mission for India:
By: Amy Zuckerman

Hydroponic systems can is that they require very Adhikari illustrate, from nearly
small amounts of elements opposite ends of the globe,
feed the poor in India and (for the same effect as larger the far-reaching commitment
around the world more quantities), which makes them of India to hydroponic growing.
effectively than conventional very inexpensive to use. Although the amount of acreage
devoted to hydroponics-
growing methods. Halfway across the globe, in based crop cultivation is low,
On a crisp morning, Tapan west-central India, Praveen hydroponic growing methods
Adhikari, Ph.D., carefully Sharma checks on a colorful are playing a key role in this
measures clear fluid from a large array of red rose bushes that emerging economy. Hydroponics
container, then drips it slowly fill hydroponic greenhouses. is the basis for many research
into a beaker at a lab at the The flowers will be clipped at experiments into means of
University of Massachusetts. just the right time to preserve feeding this countrys millions of
The soil scientist is roughly them and ship them to markets starving citizens. At the same
8,000 miles from his office at the in Japan, Kenya, and Holland time, say both men, hydroponic
India Institute of Soil Science (for distribution throughout farming is boosting Indias
in Bhopal, India, and today Europe), he explains. Besides blooming floriculture industry,
he is working in a temporary being a grower, Sharma is which provides one of the
laboratory in a basement in the owner of Flora Consult, a countrys key exports.
Amherst, Massachusetts, consulting business that helps
where he has partnered on a As someone who has traveled
farmers worldwide set up their
collaborative program with the across India for his research,
own hydroponic farms. Flora
university. Adhikari, 43, is witness to both
Consult will help secure funding
applications. His concern is
for a hydroponic farm, select
A stipend from the Indian about finding ways to feed a
greenhouse and other equipment,
government was just enough to starving nation, but he also
and train farmers and workers to
pay Adhikaris travel expenses appreciates the power that flower
grow, pack, and ship produce.
plus room and board for three exports have in funding the
months at UMass, where he countrys economy.
has learned nanotechnology A Starving Nation
techniques that can be Hydroponic greenhouses During his many years as a
applied to the development dedicated to growing flowers student and now as a research
of inorganic fertilizer, which cover only about 1,000 out of scientist, he has witnessed
can be used in both traditional Indias 600 million acres, and plenty of starvation. The issue,
soil and hydroponic growth only an estimated 140 acres are he says, is not so much a lack of
environments. The advantage dedicated to growing vegetables, water or good growing soil as an
of nanotechnology methods according to Sharma. But he and overabundance of mouths to feed.

26 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


cover story

Fighting Hunger,
Boosting Economy

About 50 percent of India efforts on improving crop yields the south. Less attention has
roughly 300 million acres in the rich, alluvial soil that been given to improving the
could be cultivated under the lines the great Indian rivers, sandy, acidic soil located in the
right circumstances. Historically, the Ghanges and Yamuna that hilly areas of the North Country,
says Adhikari, the government crisscross north and central or the damaged soil of the
has focused its agricultural India, and the Kaberi River in south in Kerala State, where the

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 27


cover story

brackish water of the Arabian Adhikari explains that his rock common in these parts of
Sea has invaded the land. fertilizer formula supplies the India. He worked with farmers on
essential nutrients required to applying micronutrients such as
We have a billion people now, promote rapid plant growth. zinc, copper, manganese, boron,
and in the next five years India These include zinc sulfate, and others, which are common
will cross to the 1.5 billion mark, calcium, magnesium, iron, and nutrients to help the plant
says Adhikari. At least 20 others. Common elements in complete its life cycle and boost
percent of the Indian population inorganic fertilizers include crop yields, he says.
is starving. Village people all superphosphate, urea, muriate
over India suffer the most. In the of potash, and zinc sulfate, to Prior to his work on
cities, they have jobs and can name a few. nanotechnology particles,
earn money. Adhikari worked on finding the
Although not organic, chemical best conventional doses of
Following the governments fertilizers are not dangerous in nutrients in the field. What we
lead, Adhikari has spotlighted soil at lower doses, according did became common practice,
alluvial soil in his research, to Adhikari. The last thing he or he reports. They get two times
working assiduously with a any research scientist wants, more crop yield than before.
10-person team from his soil he adds, is to damage soil and The same nutrients can be
science institute on a new way of plants with toxic chemicals. Of applied to hydroponic farms,
producing more food in alluvial particular concern, he says, says Adhikari. The only
soil using improved fertilizers. is the leaching of ions like difference, he explains, is that
The aim is to help farmers gain nitrates and phosphates into the they are applied directly to
more profit than they would with groundwater. water, not to soil. The research
conventional fertilizer. he is doing right now will help
Though confined to the lab while determine the exact amounts
Although the research was in Massachusetts, Adhikari also to be used in either growing
designed with conventional has spent considerable time medium.
agriculture in mind (testing is on outdoor research, sweating
conducted on corn plants), in fields in Israel, where the Most hydroponic farms in India
Adhikari says all his fundamental government provided him with a are located in the countryside,
research on plant growth is fellowship to study soil, water, sometimes in dry areas where
conducted under controlled and plants for his postgraduate water is collected from rain-
conditions in hydroponic work in 1999 and 2000. There fed cisterns. Calling conditions
greenhouses. Working on actual he worked with renowned in many parts of India very
plants is slated further down the soil expert N. I. Parker, who primitive, Adhikari says there is
research trail, in an estimated developed the Geo-Chem Model little irrigation available today,
five years, when the fertilizer to regulate the concentration of though this has begun to change
formula will be ready for mass ions in soil solutions. Adhikari as the government works to
manufacture and distribution. took this knowledge back to channel water from the major
India, where he worked with two rivers. Once channeled to a
During his time in the United other scientists at his institute on hydroponic farm, the water would
States, Adhikari has worked 10 heavy metals used to complete a require purification. Most farms
to 12hour days in a light-filled plant life cycle. have purification systems on-site,
basement lab outfitted with the he explains.
latest in equipment. He has had Adhikari also traveled throughout
access to all required chemicals, central, western, and South The regions of the country where
as well as a built-in Indian India, working with farmers as hydroponics already has taken
expatriate community of research part of national projects designed hold, he says, include Punjab,
scientists and academics in the to improve black soil, which West Bengal, Andhra Pradeh,
soil and food areas. is based on a granite-type of Delhi, and Rajastham.

28 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


cover story

Hydro Takes Hold issue at the time was the cost of a cheap, easy way of growing
The practice of hydroponics the apparatus required to grow vegetables without soil, the
arrived in India in 1946, when vegetables. To help clear that publication reported.
the government of Bengal particular hurdle, the government
started an experimental farm brought in James Sholto The Web site Hydroponics at
at Kalimpong in the Darjeeling Douglas, a British researcher Home reports that Douglas,
District, according to an overview keen on developing hydroponic now famous for developing the
of the history of hydroponics planting methods, whose Bengal System of hydroponics,
in India published on the experiments aimed to strip utilized the Mittleider method
Indianetzone Web site. The hydroponics of its complicated of square-foot gardening based
farms main purpose was to devices and to present it to the on grow boxes designed for
promote hydroponics, and the people of India and the world as intensive square-foot gardening.

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 29


cover story

What was revolutionary at the


time was his use of rock chips
and rock dust as a growing
material instead of soil, revealing
the ability to grow vegetables in
extremely harsh environments.

According to Hydroponics at
Home, Douglas constructed grow
boxes from old packing crates
and made rock chips and dust
out of smashed rocks from the
local hills. He later built these
boxes, or hydroponicums, out
of other materials, such as
mud plaster and old, unused
metal containers, to prove
that the container material did
not matter. His idea was that
virtually anything could be used
to contain the growing territory
and virtually any growing
medium would provide a base
for hydroponic plant growth as
long as the medium did not pack In May 2008, according to news One sure way to see if a
tightly around the plants roots reports, the Indian government government initiative has
and was able to retain moisture. announced a major, five-year translated into reality is to check
plan to promote and financially on whether industry is adopting
Douglas created one of the first back nanotechnology applications the approach. Sure enough, since
modern hydroponic farms in the designed to boost agricultural the government incentive was
world, and his groundbreaking productivity in the country. announced, chemical companies
experiments live today both in Besides funding research in such as Tata Chemicals, based
rooftop gardens across India, nanotech approaches to creating in Mumbai, have been touting
and in the increasing number of a more potent and cost-effective their nanotechnology-based
farms taking hold in the Indian type of organic fertilizer, for fertilizers. The products aim to
countryside. His approaches are example, the government also diminish the amount of fertilizer
applicable to the home hobbyist has been encouraging research in required per acre yet provide
and serious farmer alike, biotechnology and bioinformatics. greater crop yields.
Adhikari explains.
On the technology front, the According to the companys chief
For at least two decades, governments plan called financial officer, P. K. Ghose, their
the Indian government has for use of nanosensors and first investments in nanotechnology
strenuously backed any form nanotech-based smart delivery practices, including cell
of agricultural research that will systems to ensure that natural engineering, will be used for
improve plant yields to feed resources such as water and research and development,
people. Adhikari, despite an nutrients are used efficiently in with manufacturing coming at a
interest in general chemistry, agriculture. Nano-barcodes and later stage. Company officials
was motivated by a government nanoprocessing were also cited report that the convergence of
scholarship to pursue a degree as means to help monitor the nanotechnology, information
in soil chemistry. quality of agricultural produce. technology, and biotechnology

30 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


cover story

from the world marketplace, the


Indian government supports
growth of its floriculture
industry through tax benefits.
For example, new exporters of
flowers enjoy so-called income
tax holidays and are exempt
from certain duties. Also, the
Agricultural and Processed Food
Products Export Development
Authority (APEDA), which is
responsible for export promotion
and development of floriculture
in India, grants subsidies for
establishing cold storage,
precooling units, refrigerated
vans and greenhouses, and air
freight for exports.

No Time To Lose
Recently, Adhikari returned to
Bhopal, but he says he wont
be there for long. His work was
so favorably received at UMass
have the potential for creating a Indian flower growers also and in such urgent need to be
whole new world of agriculture. export their products to Russian applied in farming worldwide that
and the Middle East. Most Flora his American department chair is
Coming Up Roses Consult clients are in India, but trying to arrange for him to return
Praveen Sharma is such a busy Sharma is working in Kenya to this spring, Adhikari says.
man these daysshuttling create greenhouses that cover Sharma, in the meantime, says
between greenhouses, sorting about 40 acres. Again, the crop he is trying to find the least
flowers for shipments, and even is roses, he says. expensive means of shipping cut
jetting to visit new customers in flowers from Kenya to Amsterdam
Kenya who are setting up their More than 50 percent of and wants some advice; queries
first hydroponic flower farms Indias flower farms are based go out to freight forwarders and
that he maintains two cell in southern zones such as customs brokers around the world
phones and two land lines and is Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, with information pending.
working close to midnight many and Tamil Nadu. Other regions
evenings to meet the demand big on bloomers include West The story of how Indian
for his cut flowers and consulting Bengal, Maharashtra (Sharmas researchers and hydroponic
services. Sharma reports that zone), and Rajasthan. Although farmers are expanding their
sales of cut flowers are booming, roses are a favorite export economy and providing new
with one of the biggest importers flower, Indian growers are also knowledge about ways to beat
of his flowers being Japan. Most splashing color worldwide with back hunger is a living story.
in demand are roses. exports of traditional flowers When you have a hungry nation
such as marigolds, jasmine, to feed, especially one as large
The Dutch are also big importers asters, gladiolus, and others. and diverse as India, time and
of his roses, but for shipment food is of the essence.
throughout Europe. According Given the world demand for cut
to government export reports, flowers and increases in demand www.RosebudMag.com

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 31


soilless technologies 101

Hydroponics
and Its Types
T
he word In hydroponics there are a few dozens of hydroponic
hydroponics
comes from greek
systems that can be categorized in six main types:
hydro water
1. Wick system 2. Deep water culture
and ponos
3. N.F.T system 4. EBB & Flow system
work that can literately
5. Drip System 6. Aeroponics
be translated as working
water. In hydroponics plants
are grown without water These six types can be divided into two large groups:
but with the help of nutrient
solutions that contain all 1. Passive or wick systems.
the necessary elements In this case the nutrient solution is delivered to the roots by means of
available for plants to absorb capillary force without any mechanical influence (one end of the wick
them while being in right is in the nutrient solution and the other is in the plant pot). The wick
concentration. Plants' roots system belongs to this group.
are hold in the substrate that
does not have any impact 2. Active systems.
on the plants nourishment. The circulation of the nutrient solution and the aeration is conducted
Sometimes there is no with the help of some mechanisms. Nourishment and air are delivered
substrate at all. to the roots through pumps. The other five types belong to this group.

Let us examine each of these hydroponics systems in


details:

32 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


soilless technologies 101

Plant pot
1. Wick system
This type is the most simple
hydroponics system. It belongs to
the so called passive systems and
is based on the capillary force that
does not require any mechanism.
Nourishment is delivered to the roots
with the help of wicks going from the
tank to the substrate (Picture 1).
Tank Wicks
Thus, different materials can form Pump
the substrate. Among them there
are coconut fiber, pearlite layer,
vermiculite etc. This system is used Spray
for the ornamental gardening with
normal soil (one end of the wick
is placed into the water or special
Picture 1. Wick System
solution and the other one is in the
pot with soil).

This system has one and rather


2. Deep Water Culture
important drawback: it works only
This is the most simple hydroponics
for relatively small plants. Big and
system. The plants are fixed on the
hygrophilous plants need more
platform that is often made of foam plastic
nutrient solution than they can get
(Picture 2). This platform drifts in the tank
from filters. In such cases the plants
filled with nutrient solution. Plants roots
are grown with the help of another
are constantly placed in water to obtain
system. Due to this disadvantage
enough oxygen. The aeration of the
wick systems are not very wide
nutrient solution is done with the help of a
spread.
special pump. The solution is changed on
a regular basis.

Drifting platform with plants This system is ideal to cultivate small


fast-growing plants that need a lot of
liquid (for example salad). But it is not
suitable for big longstanding ones.

To grow a big plant, a modified version


of this system was invented. It is called
the J-Racks system (or the fixed-platform
Pump system). In his case the platform is
attached to the tank with nutrient solution
and special racks are fixed to support the
plants (for example tomatoes).
Spray

This type of hydroponics systems is


suitable to acquire first experience and
Picture 2. Deep Water System
skills in hydroponics.

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 33


soilless technologies 101

3. N.F.T. System
The nutrient solution is transferred
from the tank to the container
where the plants are fixed in small
plastic cups with holes for roots
to grow. The nutrient solution is Plant pot
delivered with the help of a pump.
The solution gets to the roots and
then drops back into the tank. The
flow is either maintained constantly
or switched on automatically within
small time periods. The roots are in Pump with Return of
touch with a thin layer of the nutrient nutrients nutrients
solution that is constantly on the
tank bottom. Roots receive enough
oxygen due to humid air above the
Tank
nutrient solution.
Spray Pump
In such type of hydroponics solution
you will not need the timer for the
pump. There is no substrate used
Picture 3. N.F.T
except for air what helps to keep it
cheap.

The main disadvantage of this 4. EBB & Flow System


system is the sensibility for power
shortage or pump breakdown. In Nutrient solution is delivered to the roots
case of the lack of electricity roots in the substrate (haydite, pearl-stone,
start drying almost immediately. gravel, coir etc) and then it flows over
As a solution autonomous energy into the tank. The process is automatic
sources are used (batteries) as well as the pump is connected to the timer.
substrates to prevent roots from When the timer is on the pump starts
drying. delivering nutrient solution to the roots.
When it is off the solution gets into the
tank by itself (Picture 4). After all the
solution is gone into the tank the roost
are aired.
Pump is on pump in off
The flooding is done a few times a day
Container with nutrient solution
Container with that depends on the culture and the
nutrient solution substrate type.

Pipe overflow overflow


Pipe The disadvantage is hidden in the energy
discharge
filling discharge shortage and the pump breakdown. In
filling Tank case of breakage plants can die if haydite
Pump Pump
or likewise substrates are used (the ones
that do not hold liquid properly). That is
why it is advisable to use substrates that
Picture 4. EBB & Flow System hold moisture well (coir, vermiculite etc).

34 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


soilless technologies 101

Splitter Pipes delivering


nutrient solution

Container with plants

Pump for Pipe /


nutrients overflow
Sprays Sprays
Pump

Tank Pump

Picture 5. Drip System Picture 6. Aeroponics

5. Drip System 6. Aeroponics


This is the most popular hydroponics system. Aeroponics is the most state-of-art
hydroponics system. The plants are fixed
The timer operated pump delivers nutrient on the top of the container. They are hung
solution that goes through pipes and drips at and their roots are in the air. Inside the
the root of each plant. Plants roots are placed container there are sprays that are activated
in the substrate (Picture 5). It is possible to use by the timers and the pump. Sprays regularly
separate pots to make it easier to remove, to shower the roots with nutrient solution (the
change or to withdraw plants. time interval is calculated on the basis of the
time required for absorbing). Thus roots are
There are two types of the Drip system: constantly in a mist of oxygen and nutrient
solution. High aeration encourages shorter
a) Recovery Drip System. The overage flows back periods for growing.
to the tank and is reused. You will not need an
accurate water management plan so you can resort In hydroponics it is very important to set up
to a simple timer. Nevertheless you should keep an the timer correctly. It will maintain a short
eye on acidity level and the solution composure. cycle and switch on the pump for a few
b) Non-Recovery Drip System. The solution is seconds every minute.
not used twice. That is why the timer is to be set
thoroughly. It should be more accurate to avoid any The system disadvantage is the roots drying
overage to prevent roots from rotting. This system in case of energy shortage or timer and pump
requires less time for maintenance since the pH breakdown.
level and the nutrient balance remain the same thus
making it unnecessary to check it.

As all other active systems this method is vulnerable


to energy shortage as well as pump and timer
breakdown. Besides pipes can get clogged.

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 35


soilless technologies 101

After Analyzing
Six Types of
hydroponics Systems
a Few Conclusions Can
be Drawn:
All the hydroponics The shortage of all the active
systems are effective if the hydroponics systems is the
conditions are respected as dependence on the electricity as
they give to plants everything well as the pump or timer (when
they need and in right they are required);
proportions;
To avoid plants dying it is
Almost all the types of advisable to use moisture holding
hydroponics solutions are substrates (coir, vermiculite etc)
automatic that requires less especially in hydroponics systems
involvement of a worker; with high vulnerability to energy
shortage or the pump breakdown;
All the hydroponics
systems imply the pH Hydroponics equipment is rather
and nutrient level checks. expensive but you can resort to
Nevertheless, the most economical methods or prepare
rigorous control is required some equipment yourself. Main
for reversible systems (the hydroponics principles remain the
level changes rather quickly); same.

36 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


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soilless technologies 101

The Potential
of Hydroponics
"In October 1838, that
is, fifteen months after I
had begun my systematic
inquiry, I happened to read
for amusement Malthus on
Population, and being well
prepared to appreciate the
struggle for existence which
everywhere goes on from long
continued observation of the
habits of animals and plants,
it at once struck me that under
these circumstances favorable
variations would tend to be
preserved, and unfavorable
ones to be destroyed.

The results of this would be


the formation of a new species.
Here, then I had at last got
a theory by which to work."
- Charles Darwin, from his
autobiography (1876)

38 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


soilless technologies 101

Evan Folds has a BS in Biology and a minor in Evan is the founder and president
Religion from the University of North Carolina of Progress Earth, an international
at Wilmington. He resides with his wife and wholesale hydroponic, organic
child in Wilmington, NC. gardening and wellness product
His interests include: balancing the benefits and distribution company, with a
focus on integrating sustainable
necessities of business with that of the balance
and moral concepts into a modern
of sustainable systems and making sense of food
economic model.
production.
www.progressearth.com
Evan Folds,
Founder of Progress Earth

It
is always interesting to institution and that such natural of fact, this is the only way we
note the influence and outcomes were Gods way of can sustain ourselves, but it is
power of something preventing man from being lazy. not Darwinian evolution. Put
as simple as an open it this way, hydroponics is not
mind or an idea. It And Darwin, for reasons unknown, Darwinian evolution. We have
was Thomas Malthus articulation forgot about humans. He recalibrated the balance of
of the dangers of human conveniently chose not to address biological evolution by way of a
overpopulation that solidified the the fact that Homo sapiens do developmental system that can
theory of evolution in Charles not abide by the mechanisms of best be described as egolution.
Darwins mind, but both theories natural selection and survival of
are flawed. the fittest that comprise his theory By recognizing that human
of evolution. mortality and our ability to
Malthus predicted widespread reproduce are not bound by
famine and poverty based They lived before we could carry our biological fitness, we can
on his view of what he saw the Internet in our pocket, before develop language in order to
as overpopulation in pre- hydroponics. They pre-dated the bring the focus of awareness
industrialized 19th century developing maturity of the human on the phenomenon that it is
England. He believed that these ability to consciously compensate again, the influence and power of
events were a form of divine for our overpopulation. In point an open mind and an idea.

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 39


soilless technologies 101

Most human problems are born


from our assumption that we
have it all figured out, when the
first thing we should acknowledge
is that we dont. Not because
we are not smart, but because
our organism or the technology
created by our intellect is not
equipped with the ability to
recognize everything that we
must figure outcall it faith.

Not in a religious sense, but a


spiritual sense, or a way that
recognizes there is more to
everything than what all humans
can experience directly. Just
because it works or wont kill us
doesnt mean it is good enough.

When we close ourselves off


from the subtle world of life
force that defines Biodynamics,
acupuncture, homeopathy or
any such metaphysical craft, we
lose the ability to understand the
The ability of self reflection and we collectively live as if we live anomalies we see in Newtonian
the capability to manipulate on the earth, not in it. physics or scientific laws,
our environment, rather than and, in turn, experience the
rely solely on instinct and be This evolved perspective is a degeneration that manifests
manipulated by our surroundings miraculous gift, allowing us the as CCD in bees, the collective
is something we generally take power of domestication, farming, general decline in human health,
for granted in everyday life. rational thought and a creativity municipal water fluoridation, the
that allows us unprecedented emptiness of our food or any
It is also something that forms opportunity and free will. But this other aspect of modern society
literally everything around us, freedom comes with a healthy that is unexplainably degenerate.
including our health. The entire responsibility, not only to the
industry of dentistry is a result of
our imbalance with nature, as are
other organisms that share the
earth and its resources, but to We may be
most other medical professions
for that matter.
ourselves.
living longer,
If an eagle had bad vision do
We must begin by recognizing
that we are failing in this but are we
you think it could be prescribed
contacts? Would it be selected
responsibility of nourishing
the earth and its inhabitants, living stronger?
to reproduce? It was only including ourselves. Evolution
thousands of years ago that we allows both an unprecedented The ego is a very powerful entity;
were hunter gatherers and the opportunity and at the same it fosters the mindset that it is a
industrialized world has only time a tempting danger of self humans responsibility to feed
been around for 100 years, yet absorption. plants and that somehow the

40 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


soilless technologies 101

direct calcium supplements in the


first place and that they actually
encourage the development of
many forms of arthritis.

In developing his theories of


biological transmutation Louis
Kervran conducted experiments
that serve to illustrate, among
other things, how silica can be
transmutated into calcium inside
of living organisms.

We should recognize this


phenomenon already considering
our lack of understanding in how
the mineral make-up of worm
castings is significantly enhanced
relative to what is ingested or the
bewildering way that Spanish moss
fixes more phosphorous from the
air than is available, for examples.

Are we really
what we eat?
Can a hen really
ingest enough
only thing in an ecosystem worth
considering is the plant itself. But
density of food has declined
from historical levels and many calcium to
we must recognize that when we
interject our hand into a natural
assume that this loss of vitality
can be replaced by supplements produce an egg
system we mess with the magic. and multivitamins, but the mineral
form fixed by a green plant almost daily?
For example, a study of
phosphorous fertilizer on
cannot be replaced by a pill.
The jury should
raspberries found that applying
high levels of phosphorus
caused the yield to double and
When official USDA nutrient
data shows that the calcium
content of broccoli averaged 12.9
still be out.
concentrations of phosphorus milligrams per gram of dry weight Take for example the USDAs
to increase in the plants, but in 1950, but only 4.4 milligrams idea that a plant only needs 13
meanwhile levels of eight other per gram of dry weight in 2003, to 15 elements when vegetables
minerals declined by 20 to 55 per this cannot be replaced with a end up with more than 15, or
cent! (Source: Mother Earth News) calcium supplement. the FDAs assumption that
table salt (NaCl) is not a poison
It has become relatively common In fact, there is much evidence when doctors are forced to
knowledge that the nutrient that the body cannot process compensate for its use.

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 41


soilless technologies 101

In both of these situations the


activity is driven by human
expediency, not human health.
In other words, the process is
more convenient and, more
importantly unfortunately, more
lucrative to a certain group of
individuals than if we mandated
our Extension Services to
recommend people make free
compost or derive healthy sea
salt from the abundant ocean.

It becomes even more


maddening when we understand
that NaCl is often times derived
from sea water; upwards of 60
per cent of medical schools fail This is exacerbated further when nature with the technology of
to reach minimum requirements 90 per cent of food that people hydroponics and controlled
on nutrition education, and buy is processed in some way. environment agriculture, but we
Extension agents have never The tremendous imbalance must look at this powerful means
been farmers. and unhealth created by these of food production from a logical
mindless activities creates a perspective.
In fact, the potentials burgeoning health care crisis and
for evolution to spawn crop pest infestations that initiate First of all, when utilizing the
anthropocentricity have been the use of millions of pounds of technology of hydroponics we
realized in their extreme in our pesticides and herbicides in our are separating ourselves from
methods of food production. food supply. natural systems, which is far
Farms are fertilized with different from the results of the
sometimes less than five The pesticides that we are toxic rescue chemistry used on
elements. Agricultural schools taught to use are so pervasive conventional farms that destroys
teach that in order to increase that the FDA actually allows natural systems.
the yield on a farm a farmer concentrations of these dangerous
needs to increase the amount of chemicals in our food in the parts In addition, most hydroponic
fertilizer and that the soil in every per million (ppm) range, which farmers pay attention to the
field is the same. sounds low, until you realize that abuse of pesticides and use
common pharmaceuticals such quasi-organic practices, such
The soil tests we receive from as Paxil or Cialis have active as integrated pest management
our Extension Services have no ingredients as low as the parts (IPM) and other more
indication that there is anything per billion (ppb) ranges. sustainable practices not found
alive involved in the situation on conventional farms.
and their advice recommends Plants are living beings; do you
spreading dangerous toxins and imagine that plants produced We can also generally be
industrial by-products. and tended to in this way assured that there are no
have the life force necessary genetically modified (GMO)
While most people would to sustain a healthy human crops involved in hydroponic
objectively say that these population? It turns out that an production.
activities make little sense, this apple is not just an apple.
is how 95 per cent of the food Of course we have epitomized The fact that there is so much
produced in the USA is grown. the phenomenon of controlling resistance to labeling GMO

42 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


soilless technologies 101

food in our grocery stores is a


testament to how pervasive it
already is in our food supply and
a recognition that the rest of the
world has spoken on the issue
and would not want to purchase
our foodstuff labeled GMO.

Maybe, the GMO guys


missed the memo, but pollen
drifts. Studies have shown
contaminations as high as 60
per cent on samples of certified
organic soybeans in California
according to Food Chain
Advisors.

This is the very definition of


Pandoras Box and it will only Not only does it make same time being limited in its
become more relevant as we more health sense to grow ability by the empty diets that we
begin to figure out what we hydroponically, but it makes are providing for our plants? The
are actually doing in this grand economic sense. Large mono- true potentials of hydroponics are
sinister experiment. Hydroponics culture farms can generate as only realized when the human is
is a legitimate and controlled little as $20 per acre per year focused on enhancing a natural
way to produce non-GMO food, in revenue, while smaller farms process. Using a fraction of the
meaning it can catch a premium and some hydroponic facilities elements on the periodic table in
(from people like me) on the can generate upwards of $10 to an indoor artificial environment
commodity market going forward. $15,000 per acre per year. being inundated with negative
energy from electrical equipment
Due to the vital responsibility But hydroponics is still playing to is not coming very close to the
of providing primary nutrition, the lowest common denominator. great outdoors is it?
the quality of hydroponic Commercially, the hydroponic
produce tends to be much industry has fallen under the With an eye on nutrient density,
higher than the majority of the USDAs spell regarding primary we can utilize hydroponics as a
conventionally grown food found nutrients, or the idea that means to create food with human
in super markets. a plant only needs 13 to 15 health in mind. The potential
elements to grow. of hydroponics represents
In fact, a lot of the produce what Malthus and Darwin
already in supermarkets is grown A simple recognition that a were blind to; the possibility of
hydroponically; its just not tomato ends up with more than human ingenuity augmenting
labeled as such. But we can do 15 elements in its tissue when nature in a way that sustains
so much better! it has matured should be all we human imbalance in the light of
need to tell us as much. Even in biological evolution.
Much research needs to be done the hobby market there are very
comparing the relative nutrient few truly COMPLETE nutrient Evolution got us into this
densities of crops grown in formulations. mess, but at the same time it
different methods of production, represents our ability to think our
but the capacity for higher yields Maybe the tomato is an alchemist way out of all the problems that
and nutrient density is certainly as Kevran suggests, or maybe it we have created for ourselves.
there with hydroponics. is both an alchemist and at the www.progressearth.com

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 43


questions & answers

In Search of
the Adequate
Substrate
By Noucetta Kehdi, General Hydroponics Europe

S What are we
ince the 1950s the greenhouse industry,
in search of more efficiency and better
results, started to replace soil with
substrates. Why replace soil? One of the looking for when
evident answers is to avoid all soil born
pests and diseases. Another is to replace heavy, choosing
a substrate?
and sometimes difficult to clean and dispose of,
medium with a light, easy tow ash and recycle
material. However, and most importantly; to
guarantee a clean, neutral, and well-aerated root Neutrality (no incidence on the nutritive solutions
environment. pH level)
Water retention capacity
Often hydroponics is understood as a growing Water to air ratio
technique using only water, with no substrate. Aeration and drainage
This is true for NFT or Aero-hydroponics, which Cation exchange capacity (buffering action)
use no media, or just enough to act as a plant Cleanliness
support. But growers working with Drip Irrigation, Stability of organic matter
Deep Channel NFT, or Ebb and Flow, will use Facility of disposal
more or less substrate depending on the growing Environmental and health hazards.
system they choose.
Another essential aspect to keep in mind is the
A very wide array of substrates are offered on close relationship between the media and the
the market today, and it may be difficult for irrigation cycles applied. Substrates, like rock
beginners to determine the media best adapted wool or oasis cubes, will retain much more than
to their hydroponic module. clay pebbles. With continuously recirculating,
deep hydroponic systems like Aqua Farms or Flo
Gros for instance, you better use clay pebbles
as you dont need too high a water retention. If
you decide to replace the pellets with rockwool or
oasis, then your irrigation cycle must be reduced
to irrigate 5 minutes every hour.

44 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


questions & answers

Clay Pebbles
Clay pebbles are these little round pellets you often see
in plant containers decorating banks and hotel lobbies.
Rockwool They are clay pellets cooked at high temperature to
expand and become porous, providing a sterile and light
Rockwool is made by melting pure basalt at structure which retains significant oxygen and moisture
extremely high temperatures (+/- 1500C). The for healthy roots. The pellets come in several sizes going
mass of liquid rock is centrifugally spun to form from 2 mm up to 24 mm diameters. The smaller sizes
fibres when cool. This is one of the most wide- have some capillary capability while the larger are most
spread substrate used until now. It was, and noted for their rapid drainage. The best combination
often still is, widely used by the greenhouse for deep gully hydroponics is a mix of small and large
industry until it became an environmental pellets (4/8 8/16) to attain the most adequate root
hazard, important enough to raise new environment.
regulations concerning its use and disposal.
When chosen from a reliable manufacturer clay pebbles are
Rockwool is good material and meets most neutral (pH close to 7.0) in order not affect the pH level of
properties of a good substrate. It comes in the nutritive solution.
various forms like cubes of all sizes, slabs and
shredded bits, and has several advantages, They are easy to clean after the crop. In small quantities
including neutrality, good aeration, and good they can be boiled in water.
water retention capacity.
In larger quantities they can be soaked overnight in a
But rockwool has an strong inconvenience: it strongly acidic solution (4.0) or in Chlorine, and rinsed
is not ecological. It is harmful to your health, thoroughly the next day. Of course you can use them over
especially when dry. The fine particles break and over again as many times you need.
off the cubes or slabs, get into the air we
breathe, and accumulate into the lung tissues. They are natural and environmentally friendly. They are
totally recyclable: when you are finished using them you
Rockwool is harmful for the environment too, can easily discard them in the garden or mix them in your
creating a serious disposal problem due to the potted plants to lighten the soil.
fact that it does not break down easily. After
use it gets generally thrown with the garbage Clay pellets have little water retention capacity compared
in landfill sites and will not decompose, leaving to other substrates. They cant be used with all growing
heavy pollution in our soils. systems but are better suited to deep gully, constantly
running growing systems like all Hydro Systems.
Rockwool is often used with Drip or Ebb and
Flow systems, but it is being replaced by Some growers will mix them with other substrates to
cleaner, environmentally friendly substrates like improve drainage and add cation exchange capacity to
coconut fibre and clay pebbles. rockwool or organic mediums like coconut fibre.

Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13 | 45


questions & answers

Coconut Fibre Perlite


Coconut fibre was intro- Perlite is derived from
duced a few years ago sterilized volcanic rock
for the greenhouse specially graded for
industry as a substitute horticulture use. It is excellent
to rockwool, when an for increasing aeration,
efficient and cost effective improves drainage and
replacement was needed. reduces compaction at the
it has been grown (loca- root. It is extremely slow to break down and can be used
It is a by-product of the
tion) and the processing in quantities. In hydroponics perlite will be used for Drip
coconut husking process,
of the fibre, as it must be Irrigation and will come in plastic wrapping like rockwool
primarily produced by
separated and is typically and coconut fibre. Some growers will mix it with another
tropical countries with
leached of salts (from salt substrate like loose coconut pith for instance, in order to
large coconut plantations.
water). Most coconut sub- improve drainage and aeration.
It comes in 2 configura- strates come from coastal
tions: areas and contain sodium
in quantities that may
The traditional one
be damaging to plants. Vermiculite
consists in hard bricks,
Nowadays, the producers
or chips in plastic bags, Vermiculite is puffed mica
will leach the salts and
which will expand tremen- heated and expanded. It holds
get good enough results.
dously when watered. a tremendous amount of
This brand has excellent Another parameter is the moisture and provides capil-
water retention and cation drainage faculty of the lary action in the root zone. It
exchange capacities, and substrate. As good and has excellent cation exchange
is stable enough so as not well aerated as your sub- capacity.
to decompose too fast. strate will be, when using
But Vermiculite, like Perlite, is not often used in
shredded fibre, sooner or
The newest brands hydroponics, mainly because of poor aeration. Both
later your fibre will start
come in woven cubes substrates are better adapted to germinate seeds or to root
compacting, eliminating
and slabs which have cuttings in existing hydroponic propagating units. They can
the aerated space your
hardly any water reten- be used mixed together or with other substrates, for better
roots need to develop.
tion capacity, and should efficiency.
This is why growers
only be used in cases
will sometimes mix clay Substrate is a matter of technical choice according to the
of continuous watering
pebbles or perlite to their growing method you use, and it is an ethical one too, when
cycles. The counterpart is
coconut chips. environment and fair trade are concerned.
their perfect drainage and
aeration capacities. Coconut fibre is a typical This is not an exhaustive description of all the substrates
product where fair trade available on the hydroponics market today. Rockwool, clay
There are several param-
has to be respected. The pellets, coconut fibre, perlite and vermiculite are the most
eters to keep in mind
manufacturing processes widespread. Others, like lava rocks, sphagnum peat moss,
when choosing your coco-
in most countries include and even sand, gravel or tree barks, may be used too. Of
nut substrate: sodium
child labour and/or very course many growers choose to work with no substrate
content, aeration and
poor compensation to at all, like in Aero-hydroponics or NFT. And in some third
drainage capacity, pro-
the farmers. This is one world countries, where hydroponic gardeners dont have
duction means.
main issue that we, in the same choices or means as we do here, they will use
The quality of coconut rich countries, must start plastic scraps and other inert wastes as medium and obtain
fibre is dependent on to address as much as excellent crops too, proving that soil is not the only sub-
the conditions in which possible. strate possible when it is replaced with the right material.

46 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


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questions & answers

Questions and
Answers Section
Q1 Out of the varying hydroponic manage to keep the plant. Each Doing it before does nothing at best
mediums that can be used can you pruning is an opportunity for the and some claim that it is detrimental
please enlighten me as to which plant to catch diseases. The cut because killing every organism
one is the most environmentally stems leave wounds that are alive in the room leaves an open
friendly as I like to think of myself entry of pathogens, virus as well ground for diseases to come in.
as helping the environment? as bacteria or fungi. Also, since You disinfect in case of mildews of
there is always a balance in a every kind, root rot, a bad case or
A1 When you examine a
plant between what above and Pythium or fusarium, etc
substrate for its lesser possible
whats underground, a heavy
impact on the environment, there But disinfecting does little or
pruning means death or part of
are 3 factors to consider: How nothing against spider mites. They
the root mass. The decaying roots
is it manufactured? How do we will come in once your crop is
are the ground on which thrives
dispose of it? Is it renewable or established through your ventilation,
Pythium and other root fungi. The
in limited supply? on your clothes, your shoes. Almost
proliferation of those organisms
everybody and everything can be
Peat moss is an example of a make it hard for the healthy
a carrier for insects or their eggs.
product with no adverse impact roots to survive. The scissors or
To avoid this you can screen your
when you use it, but in limited other tools used for taking the
ventilation, restrict visitors to a
supply and its mining does have an cutting can also be a source of
contamination. This covers only minimum and do not use the same
impact on precious march lands. clothes and shoes youve been
what can weaken the plant in her
Among the safe substrates to role as a mother. On top of tis, wearing outside. It is not a warranty,
use there is Coconut fibre, clay there is all the natural stress that but it will go a long way toward
pebbles, pumice rock and a may occur, such as large variations protecting your crop.
variety of other lava rocks. All of in humidity, a factor always tricky An excellent protection against
them are relatively equal in terms to control indoor, and many others. spider mites is to use their
of environmental impact. Coco It might be best, once in a while, to natural predators: Phytoseiulus
is susceptible to contain sodium choose a healthy cutting to replace persimilis and Amblyseiulus
in large quantity, a problem for the mother plant before she shows californicus. If you suspect a
recirculating systems. Avoid signs of abuse. But if you are spider mite infestation, Integrated
rockwool or glasswool, since they extremely meticulous and if your Pest Management (IPM) as
are serious ecological problems. plant does not suffer from external prevention or treatment against
causes, you can keep mother most pests is your best choice.
Q2 If you keep a specific plant
plants for many years.
as a mother to take clones from, Published with the permission of
how long are you able to keep the Q3 How often should I disinfect General Hydroponics Europe.
mother alive without making the my indoor grow room? The area in Source: www.eurohydro.com

clones you take useless? question is 3m by 4m; Im worried
about getting the dreaded spider mites! "Please, share your questions with us
A2 In theory, you can take
cuttings from the same mother A3 You have to disinfect your at support-us/cd/eu@soillessgardening-
for a very long time, in real life room after you have an occurrence india.com or support-asia@
all depend on how healthy you of a pathogen in it, and not before. soillessgardening-india.com"

48 | Soilless Gardening India Magazine February'13


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