A Kerala entrepreneur’s experiments with ‘soil-less’ gardening

From a younger age, Anas Nasser beloved gardening. After working with an IT start-up for some time, the MBA graduate from Aluva in Kerala felt compelled to maneuver to a vocation “closer to my heart”. Anas says he then began “researching” eco-friendly and cost-effective strategies of gardening and cultivation and realised the potential for sustainable and environment-protecting ‘soil-less’ farming.

In 2017, Anas introduced out a soil substitute that he says is manufactured from a number of natural supplies with coco peat because the chief holding medium. “With space and soil availability becoming sparse in urban areas, soil substitutes are finding favour as simultaneously the push for self-cultivated organic produce and green indoor spaces gain wider appeal,” says the 28-year-old.

Anas says his potting combination is “100% soil-free”, with the principal uncooked supplies being handled coco peat, pulp from banana stem, water hyacinth topic to bio-reaction and sugarcane press mud amongst others. After cleaning and bio-treatment, the uncooked supplies are powdered and combined within the requisite proportion. “To increase the mineral value of the mixture, organic plants that serve as fertilisers such as seaweed are added after due bio-reaction processes,” provides the entrepreneur.

Mint grown in a passion fruit shell

However, relying on function, whether or not the crops to be potted are decorative, medicinal or for harvest, the elements within the soil substitutes are customised throughout manufacturing. “For instance, common indoor plants like succulents and cacti need more heat at the base and it’s good if the soil medium ensures this. Hence, additional materials such as coffee husk powder are added to the potting mixture for such plants. Whereas, herbal plants need a relatively more fertile medium and so suitable nutrients are added. As regards kitchen garden, ideally, the soil substitute needs good fertility,” he explains.

Anas, who likes to analysis new strategies of cultivation and soil substitutes and artistic indoor areas, says he endeavours to maintain his house a inexperienced house, nurturing a wide range of crops there. “Apart from ornamental plants like succulents, aglaonema, anthurium and so on, I also like to keep a few with medicinal values and I have tulsi, aloe vera, mint, many varieties of hibiscus, all grown with soil substitutes,” he says.

A succulent growing in a ceramic pot

Anas’ “experiments” at his kitchen backyard has yielded him veggies like potato, tomatoes and carrot and leafy greens resembling kale, lettuce, broccoli and styles of spinach. “And the veggies did come in handy for me during the lockdown,” he says with a chuckle.

With a big amount of sand that find yourself in city areas for functions of gardening and domestic-level cultivation are mined, agricultural scientists spotlight the benefits of shifting to appropriate soil substitutes. Shinoj Subramanian, senior scientist and Head of Krishi Vigyan Kendra Ernakulam, says soil-less farming in Kerala is mainly put into follow within the type of hydroponics and use of coir pith-based soil substitute. “Though hydroponics is an effective method, it’s relatively costlier. As regards natural soil, its source is often questionable. In such a context, soil substitutes are a feasible alternative for domestic gardens,” he says.

Tomato grown using the soil substitute

However, Shinoj says that for large-scale agriculture, which requires clayey soil, this might not be actually conducive as “it is difficult to reconstitute the rich, natural qualities of clayey soil.”

Anas’ experiments with soil-less cultivation could be explored on his Instagram web page, @anas.organure.

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