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Are India’s Urban Farming Startups Ready To Reap Scalable Growth?

Are India’s Urban Farming Startups Ready To Reap Scalable Growth?

India's urban farming startups are tapping the hyperlocal demand for fresh high-quality produce in cities with vertical farms, hydroponic growing and greenhouses

While VC interest in urban farming has been on the rise, startups need to tackle challenges such as high cost of operations and lack of product variety before expanding to newer markets

Despite questions of scalability, factors such as farming land crunch, food security and health issues are encouraging for the future of urban farming

Shivendra Singh, currently the founder and CEO of Barton Breeze, was working on a hydroponics pilot project in Dubai in 2014. At the time, he was just a fresh graduate from IIM-Ahmedabad. Even then, he did not fail to realise the potential impact of the technology on a country like India that needs support to face the vagaries of climate change. The young professional had a new mission. He wanted to provide chemical-free food to consumers all year round and make sure that the agricultural produce would not be affected by the change of seasons.

Singh came back to India soon after that and set up an artificial intelligence-driven hydroponic farm in 2015. Five years later, the startup has evolved into a 3,50,000 sq. ft hydroponic and aeroponic farm that grows more than 11,50,000 kg food annually. Both hydroponics and aeroponics enable plants to grow without soil, allowing higher and healthier yields with fewer resources.

Today, Barton Breeze is not a solo venture in this space. A host of urban farming startups such as Clover Ventures, Homecrop and Growing Greens are also working on the rising levels of pesticides in farm produce by growing crops in a controlled microclimate in farms or sourcing directly from personally-vetted farming estates.

According to an analysis by Pesticide Action Network India, a total of 275 pesticides were registered for use in India in 2016, of which about 255 are chemical poisons and more than 115 pesticides out of the 275 are highly hazardous. But the harmful nature of the pesticides did not create enough commotion to enact change. As a country which has been too concerned about feeding its humongous population since Independence, the quality of food remains a matter of discussion only in newsrooms and certain elite circles.