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Kashmiris turn to soil-less farming

SRINAGAR, OCT 23: Ashiq Hussain faced the challenge of not having land for traditional farming, leading his family to spend a significant amount on purchasing vegetables.

Three months ago, one of his friends informed him about hydroponic farming where one can grow vegetables in pipes and requires very little land. Intrigued by the concept, he decided to give it a try. Hussain converted a part of his courtyard into a hydroponic farm with guidance from the J&K government’s Agriculture Department.

Using 10 PVC pipes, a stand, and a motor for the water circulation system, cost him Rs 25,000. With great care and dedication, he set up a system on 3×6 feet of land where plants grew in nutrient-rich water instead of traditional soil.

“We have been growing spinach, collard greens, coriander, mint, and other vegetables in these pipes for the last 45 days,” Hussain, a 27-year-old youth from Srinagar’s Kander Mohalla of Saida Kadal area, said.

This innovative technique allowed individuals without land, like Hussain, who is an electrician by profession, to grow their vegetables efficiently.

“With this technique, we are growing vegetables and can then use them for our daily usage and also distribute them among relatives and friends,” he said, while carefully monitoring the water levels, nutrient concentrations, and temperature to create the perfect environment for vegetables.

Elaborating on the process, he said seeds are grown separately until they develop into healthy plants. “We first germinate the seeds separately, and once the plants are ready, we transfer them into the PVC pipes. Additionally, we require specific chemicals, electricity, and a motor to transport the nutrient solution through the pipes to nurture the plants,” he said.

When asked about the differences between hydroponic farming and traditional farming, Hussain explained, “Hydroponic farming, where we grow vegetables in pipes, offers several advantages. It requires minimal labour, eliminates the need to remove unwanted grass, and can be set up in various locations. Notably, it doesn’t rely on traditional manures and fertilizers, making it accessible even to those with limited farming knowledge. Additionally, it proves effective during harsh winters with heavy snowfall in Kashmir, as the crops remain safe from damage, and snow can be easily removed and stored securely. Even in my absence when I go for my daily work, my sister and father also operate the motor to nurture plants.”

As news of this innovative technique spread, many others have also embraced hydroponics to cultivate their vegetables

Experts generally have positive views about hydroponic farming for several reasons.

Director of the Agriculture Department Kashmir, Iqbal Chowdhary stated that hydroponic techniques allow for plant growth without the requirement of soil. “In this method, plants receive essential nutrients from a water-based solution. A motor-driven system circulates the nutrient solution through pipes, making it accessible to those lacking land for conventional farming,” he said.

He said a lot of people especially those not having land for traditional farming have shown interest in starting hydroponic farming. “Employees, shopkeepers, drivers are approaching us to start hydroponic farming,” he added.

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