By Ritwik Sinha
As you take the left turn after crossing Manesar on the Delhi-Jaipur highway towards Panchgaon and drive down for more than a kilometer, the covered tall structures visible from a distance hardly give you the impression of being a serious lab for alternative farming.
But when you reach the spot, the place offers many surprises.
Run by food start-up Triton Foodworks, the structures facilitate soilless farming (coconut coir is used as the base material) and specialises in several variants of lettuce, swiss chard, pak-choy, which are grown vertically. The produce is supplied to some restaurants and retail brands in Gurgaon.
“The output of this farm is close to 250 kg daily,” Dhruv Khanna, Co-Founder of the company told IndoAsiancommidities.com in an interview. Two other partners are Deepak Kukreja and Ulhas Samrat.
Triton Foodworks uses hydroponics farming – soilless farming which cuts down water intake by nearly 90% and is devoid of pesticides. It also leads to higher yield, amounting to as much as 15 times compared to traditional farming.
This alternative technique is gaining popularity in matured markets and also in countries such as Israel.
And considering the growth potential in the segment, corporate giants around the world have begun to back promising companies in the space. For example, San Francisco based agri-tech firm Plenty today is backed by Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Soft Bank.
Triton Foodworks’ signpost facility is certainly a miniatured example of the potential of hydroponics farming in a country like India where despite production growth farmers’ distress continues to remain a perennial issue. Lack of innovation is being cited as a key bottleneck.
“Practices like hydroponics farming certainly define the future of farming for the kind of advantages it delivers especially the yield. Plus, it ensures year-round farming of any crop. It may be expensive by 20 percent in terms of input cost vis-à-vis traditional farming but the significantly increased volume production more than compensates for it if you link it with efficient sales channels,” said Khanna.
Triton Foodworks manages close to 6 acres of hydroponics farming sites (including some turnkey projects) and the annual output is close to 800 tonnes.
“It’s catching up in India as well with food linked companies like DS Foods, Dabur and Adani also aligning with it for their procurement. Plus, there are start-ups like us which are committed to take it forward. Triton Foodworks is now looking to open a major center close to Mumbai,” Khanna told Indoasiancommodities.com.
The company is planning an indoor farming facility, billed to be the next big thing in alternative farming after hydroponics, at its current site. “The yield is significantly higher in indoor farming vis-à-vis hydroponics and it can be set up even in the middle of the city,” Khanna added.
It is also planning to launch its own brand ‘Chop-Chop’ to make an entry in the B2C space.
“We will do it first in Gurgaon through retail stores,” said Khanna, adding that company’s controlled farming facilities is expected to go up to 200,000 square feet from the current base of 150,000 square feet. The company has also started discussions with potential investors to scale up its business.