Engineering students lay the groundwork for sustainable agriculture

Ramlal, Bharat Kumar and Raju Kumar have been farming in Goyla Dairy, an outer suburb of New Delhi, for a number of a long time. And till June 2018, the situation of those three males was like that of most small-scale farmers on this urbanised village. Their produce — cauliflower, brinjal, okra, tomato, spinach, fenugreek, and gourds — was not getting a very good value in the market. Worse, as farmers who don’t personal the land they until, they weren’t eligible for the subsidies and reduction schemes introduced by the Government. Despite it being the supply of revenue for over 80% of India’s rural inhabitants, and contributing 16% to 18% of the Gross Domestic Product, the nation’s agrarian economic system is suffering from excessive preliminary funding and low crop yield, compounded additional by insufficient irrigation sources.

But since June 2018, Project Aahar, run by 18 students from Netaji Subhash University of Technology (NSUT) in Dwarka has been making an attempt to assist 14 small-scale farmers in Goyla Dairy and East Delhi Yamuna-Khadar areas by focussing their consideration on sustainable and soil-less agriculture. The undertaking is a part of the social entrepreneurship programme for students below the aegis of the world non-profit Enactus.

A viable various

The ‘hero’ on this story is a nutrient-rich rising medium known as CVP. Featuring coco-peat (coconut pith fibre) mixed with vermiculite (a hydrous phyllosilicate mineral which expands when heated), and perlite (an amorphous volcanic glass that has a comparatively excessive water content material), CVP has emerged as a substitute for standard farming soil.

“We realised that the main problem faced by farmers is the lack of a productive crop cycle. Irrigation, fertilisers, and pesticides cost a lot, but the crop quality remains poor. So we started promoting the use of CVP on soil (at a ratio of 3:1), because it needs only one-twentieth the amount of water compared to conventional soil, and is resistant to pest attacks. There was an increase of 1 to 1.5 times in the yield after farmers started using CVP,” says Ritvik Nagpal, director of Project Aahar and a second- yr scholar of Computer Engineering at NSUT.

The preliminary stage of the CVP trials are paid for by the undertaking’s scholar staff. They supply dried coco-peat in 5 kilogram bricks (roughly ₹120 per piece) from an area farming provides retailer, and rehydrate it earlier than making ready the rising medium. “When moistened, the volume of coco-peat expands five-fold. So actually we are paying ₹120 for 25 kilograms of coco-peat, which makes it cost-effective,” says Sarthak Gupta, a second-year Instrumentation and Control Engineering scholar of NSUT, who can also be related to Project Aahar.

Farmer Bharat Kumar, who grows 10 greens via the yr, says CVP has labored wonders on his yield. “For a single ‘kyaari’ (a plot of arable land), I used to be harvesting 40 kilograms of methi (fenugreek) in the previous technique of farming. Now I get 55 to 60 kilograms from the identical plot,” says the 29-year-old.

A farmer working below Project Aahar will get his crop prepared for sale. Photo: Special Arrangement/THE HINDU

The students have additionally arrange an initiative known as Farm to Fork, which helps their farmers to promote their crops at residential complexes in the neighborhood. “As awareness about nutritious food is growing, we realised that it is important for farmers to get connected directly to their consumers. We have got permission from resident welfare associations of gated communities in Dwarka and Goyla Dairy to allow these farmers to set up stalls within the compounds. This automatically does away with the middleman, and the farmers get a better price for their produce,” says Sarthak. Besides this, Project Aahar additionally sells nutrient movie method (NFT) hydroponic gardening kits to lift funds for farming provides.

Treasure from waste

Reusing the waste generated by agriculture has turn into key to lowering air pollution and discovering eco-friendly options to conventional farming, says R Selvakumar, the scientist from Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Delhi, who has been guiding Project Aahar’s students. “As recently as 25 years ago, as in most of southern India, coir pith used to be discarded on the roadside at my hometown Singampunari in Sivaganga district. But it has since been repurposed as an agricultural innovation,” he says. However, the CVP-based module of rising is finest executed in a protected setting, says Selvakumar. “Our farmers cannot afford to give up conventional farming completely; it’s best to have a combination of technologies to balance the growth.”

A significant benefit of CPV is its low price. Once the planting is profitable, the medium can be utilized for three years, with out altering. In standard agriculture, new inputs should be added from yr to yr, to take care of the soil high quality, says the scientist.

Besides IARI, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) and agricultural startups BonFarmo, Hydroagro and Khetify are additionally related to Project Aahar.

Future plans

Buoyed by the preliminary success, the NSUT-Enactus staff is planning to develop the scope of the undertaking to extra farmers throughout Delhi and, if want be, in different cities as soon as the lockdown is lifted. “Our research and development wing is working on deep water culture hydroponics, where we suspend plant roots in a solution of nutrient-rich oxygenated water. We hope to reach out to other student organisations to deal with the bigger numbers of farmers,” says Ritvik.

Farmers taking part in Project Aahar have began utilizing their further revenue to diversify into animal husbandry and ancillary agricultural actions. But there’s a extra invaluable final result, says Ritvik. “All our farmers have a smile on their faces when we meet them these days. That’s the most satisfying part of this project.”

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