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The Next Big Spin: Hydroponic Farming In F&B Industry

Hydroponic farming picked up pace across the countries as it brings along hosts of benefits and orchestrates higher value creation.

Today we are witnessing new paradigms of innovation that are causing disruption across all the sectors, and the Food and Beverage sector stands as no exception. The F&B industry accounts for nearly 3% of India’s GDP and with more than 7.3 million workforce, it is the single largest employer in the country. Over the years, we witnessed massive innovations across the sector to meet the growing demands of the fast-paced consumers. One such innovation that is changing the course of the F&B industry today is Hydroponic Farming.

Hydroponic farming is a practice of cultivating plants in a nutrition rich solution, instead of soil with a highly controlled and climate-proof environment. The technique, also commonly known as ‘soilless farming’, is increasingly gaining acceptance and popularity across the globe. Hydroponic farming is at the brim of a revolution, with India’s hydroponics market expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.53% between 2020 and 2027. Moreover, according to a recent report by Markets & Markets, the global hydroponics system is expected to reach nearly $18 billion by 2026.

We are standing against a myriad of new issues and crises that are fostering dramatic changes to the global lifestyle and consumer behaviour. Hydronic farming today has huge potential to mitigate the threats of climate change, infectious diseases, urbanisation, food scarcity and depletion of resources that is causing a turmoil to not only our agricultural setup and F&B industry, but also our day-to-day lives.

Hydroponic farming picked up pace across the countries as it brings along hosts of benefits and orchestrates higher value creation. It caters to the evolving necessities of the industry as well as the end consumers with:

● Road to mitigate Food Crisis: According to reports, the world will be housing about 9.8 billion people by 2050 and which will lead to an increasing food production, by at least 70 per cent. The figures point towards an alarming situation for the world. However, according to the UN reports on global population, plants grown in hydroponic models are witnessed to have achieved 20%–25% higher yield than the traditional agriculture system, with its productivity being 2–5 times higher. Plants grown in a hydroponic environments are healthier, which results in bigger yields in shorter span of time frames. Moreover, since hydroponic farming doesn’t require a large geographical space as compared to traditional soil farming, the yield-per-acre are much higher. Lastly, since the cultivation is indoors, farming continues to be a year-round process rather than being restricted to a seasonal pattern, thereby again increasing the produce.

● Superior Quality and Higher Nutrient Value: Hydroponic farming offers improved quality characteristics of the plant, particularly the nutritional value. Methods like increasing the pH, fertilizers or changing of light quality, can increase and decrease the nutritional compounds in the plants, allowing the farmers to enhance the nutritional aspects of the crop. Another added advantage is the longer shelf life of the produce. Moreover, decreasing the time between harvest and consumption also increases the nutritional value of the end product. And since the environment can be better controlled, consumers purchase hydroponic produce with a satisfaction that their food is clean, fresh and of the highest quality and cleanest, crispest taste possible. The fruits and vegetables don’t lose their freshness and nutritious value, before reaching stores.

● Improved Taste and Chemical Free Harvests: Another benefit that Hydroponic farming caters to is the ability to enhance and alter the taste of the product. Farmers can enhance the taste of the crop by altering the pH levels of the water solution. Consumers now prefer naturally-grown food products over conventionally-grown food products because of the rapidly rising awareness around presence of harmful additives and chemicals. Since the crops in hydroponic farming are grown in a controlled weather, there are no insects, thereby ruling out the usage of pesticides and other chemicals for the growth and enabling consumers to eat healthier and be closer to their food.

● Increased Availability of Exotic Fruits and Vegetables: The hydroponic model of farming has also lead to a year-round availability of the high in demand exotic vegetables such as kale, lettuce, broccoli, cucumber, and cilantro for use in multi-national and inter-continental cuisines. The farmers are now able to address the dynamically changing dietary shifts of customers, while also catering to their confined tastes and niche demands.

● Sustainable Approach: The consumers are becoming more and more conscious about the raw materials and source of the raw materials used in the food products. With the increasing awareness, consumers today are increasingly favouring sustainable and chemical-free products. Thus, with an aim to maintain a healthy lifestyle complimented with environmental sustainability, consumers are willing to spend on organic and natural food products. The food manufacturers are thereby preferring hydroponics based organic vegetables and fruits, as hydroponic farming leads to minimal draining of resources. It uses far less water—up to 95% less as compared to traditional in-ground farming, making it highly environment friendly and sustainable for the future.

As the world population continues to grow, the challenge to produce more food whilst being more sustainable hangs on our shoulders. To implement the right solutions at the right time, many technologies are coming into play. Hydroponic farming is one such solution that has the potential to sustain a large proportion of the world’s population and to empower Third World countries to feed their own people, even in places with poor soil and food scarcity.

Source: Business World

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