India’s traditional agricultural sector is in a crisis as it cannot produce enough quality produce due to various detrimental factors like climate change and archaic farming practices.
Vertical farming in India plays a vital role in growing fresh, locally sourced produce without any harmful pesticides in built-up urban settings. While fully automated vertical farm startup costs can be prohibitively expensive, niche produce should see ROI within a short space of time.
It’s no wonder that vertical farming in India has garnered so much interest from farmers and investors alike. So, if you are wondering whether it would be prudent to invest in this pioneering sector – read on!
Indoor Vertical Farming In India
While the indoor vertical farming industry is relatively new in India, it is vital as the traditional agricultural sector is struggling to feed its growing population of 1.27 billion people. That can not only be attributed to climate change.
According to the Associations for Vertical Farming, the Indian agricultural sector is hamstrung by low outputs due to their fragmented small parcels of land, an over-reliance on water, fertilizers, and rapid urbanization.
In stark contrast, the indoor vertical farming sector is impervious to all those limiting factors and is essential due to the growing demand for nutritious fresh food in a primarily vegetarian country.
So, it’s no wonder that the indoor vertical farming sector is in high demand as it can feed the rapidly increasing population that has migrated from rural lands to the major cities in India as the traditional agricultural sector declines.
It is currently predicted that over 80% of the global population will reside in urban settings, and vertical farming plays a vital role in sustainably feeding the growing population. It uses 99% less water and is 40% less electricity than the traditional agricultural sector.
Most vertical farmers use a climate-controlled polyhouse or a greenhouse, with artificial lighting and ventilation constructed from either polyethylene or glass, differing in sizes from tiny shacks to large enclosed structures that are suited to the mostly sunny Indian climate.
Vertical Farming In India: Setup Cost
Vertical farmers predominantly use either hydroponics, aquaponics, or aeroponics, depending on their location or financial resources.
According to the Chandra Shekhar Azad University of Agriculture & Technology, former Vice-Chancellor Tewari Girish Chandra, vertical farming is a less expensive venture in an urban setting in comparison to open-field farming.
However, startup costs are dictated by the size, location, and vertical farming method, although the startup collateral is readily available in India via loan agreements and government subsidies.
The National Horticulture Board should be your first port of call if you need more information about venture capital in the vertical farming industry. However, it would be best if you were warned that startup costs may vary from a mere Rs 5000 to 1 lakh.
While vertical farming requires less operational costs in terms of water and pesticides and can produce substantial yields in a small space, you will have to factor in maintenance costs, lighting requirements, and a limited number of crops that can be grown in a vertical farming environment.
Moreover, you will need to have enough capital to cover the hefty building costs, including the installation of a computerized LED lighting program and remote management systems, including expensive temperature control systems.
However, you will only need between Rs 4 and 5 thousand for vertical subsistence farming, which can eventually grow into a viable commercial venture.
Is Vertical Farming In India A Good Business?
According to a Market Data Forecast report, the Asia Pacific region is a prime consumer market for vertical farmers, with an estimated value of $0.78 billion in 2021. However, it is expected to grow by up to 29%, to the value of $2.77 billion in 2026.
Most importantly, the report states that the consistent innovation and growth in the Indian vertical farming sector are propelled by increasing demand for organic crops throughout the country, which has created various new startups that enter this competitive market on an annual basis.
Vertical farming has become increasingly essential as open-field agriculture is faced with the disastrous effects of desertification, soil erosion, droughts, and floods due to the devastating effects of climate change.
Although, it’s imperative to find a niche product like Turmeric and conduct a feasibility study before you invest your hard-earned money.
Another prime consideration before investing in vertical farming is frequent blackouts which could lead to massive losses if a renewable energy source is not in place; this, in turn, demands additional upfront capital to ensure business continuity.
However, if you should calculate your potential annual profits over two decades, vertical farming is a profitable investment, and you could see a return on your initial investment within 1.5 years.
Water-wise vertical farming is a prudent investment in drought-prone regions where locally sourced fresh produce is mostly in short supply.
It is essential to remember that while vertical farming is less prone to pests and other crop infestations, it demands scrutiny as the latter can destroy a viable crop.
Another factor that can have cost implications is temperature control which is vital in India’s hot climate, especially in poly houses or greenhouses where natural sunlight is used to cultivate plants.
To illustrate vertical farming’s value, notable venture capitalists like Brightfarms, Plenty, and Bowery have invested heavily in climate-proof greenhouses situated on the outskirts of Indian metropoles due to the sustainable nature of this cutting-edge farming technique.
Apart from generating organic produce, the future of vertical farming in India includes generating much-needed energy by burning plant waste, recycling black or greywater, and sourcing clear water through dehumidification.
Where Is Vertical Farming In India Used?
India is renowned for being one of the biggest producers of fruits, vegetables, and pulses globally, which has propelled the vertical farming sector throughout the country.
Vertical farms are primarily cultivated in gated communities or multi-story buildings in Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata. You can check out this video to see vertical farming in India in action on a rooftop terrace.
There are smaller farms situated in West Bengal, including Nadia, where they successfully cultivate tomatoes and brinjals, and a farm in Punjab that cultivates potato tubers.
Who Invented Vertical Farming In India?
While a Columbia University professor Dickson_Despommier was credited as the father of modern vertical farming in 1999, his stroke of genius had put to the test in 2012 when Hamsa V and Nithin Sagi established Growing Greens, which was India’s first vertical farm 2012.
Growing Greens was established as the business partners spotted a gap in the market for fresh quality salad, edible flowers, microgreens, and sprouts. They now supply them to luxury hotels, cafes, and restaurants in Bengaluru.
The company uses cutting-edge hydroponic technology to produce nutrient-rich produce in a small urban vertical farming setting, and because of the lack of heavy soil, the building’s walls and roof are not affected, which makes it perfect for rented or leased vertical farms.
According to co-owner Hamsa, they have greater control over the way their pesticide-free healthy food is produced, and they can supply their clients with fresh, uncut microgreens that still have their roots attached.
While establishing vertical farming in India is initially a costly endeavor, and there are several pertinent factors to consider, it is the wave of the future.
There’s no doubt that climate change will continue to wreak havoc on the traditional open-field agricultural sector, and the demand from a growing population will propel vertical farming in India and its technologies to new heights.