Ernakulam: In a bid to encourage urban farming, the State Horticulture Mission plans to buy and supply Arka Vertical Garden structures to people living in urban areas across the state.
In the initial stage, the urban population in Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram has been selected to promote it. The Arka Vertical Garden structure is developed by the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), Bengaluru. IIHR has expressed willingness to transfer the technology to the state government. The State Horticultural Mission plans to develop structures locally with the help of cooperative establishments once the technology is transferred. The Mission plans to provide 330 units to urban families in Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram in the initial phase.
For people living in urban areas, lack of enough space to farm is a matter of concern and this vertical garden structure is made specifically to address this concern.
This structure is useful for safe and easy growing of vegetables for the requirement of families. These structures can be accomodated in areas, such as balcony, terrace etc, where enough sunlight is available. These structures can be used for growing vegetables and medicinal and flower crops.
It has three main parts, the base frame, main central support and branches having pots or grow bags. Pots can be filled with soil or coco peat as a growing medium. This structure requires minimal space as it can be accomodated in just one square meter area.
The plants, such as tomato, chili, peas, brinjal etc, that require more growing medium and attain a height of over two feets, can be placed at the base of the structure. Leafy vegetables and medicinal plants like brahmi, pudina, peppermint etc, can be grown in upper levels.
A 25-liter plastic container at the top of the structure, with micro tubes and drippers, is used to water the plants. Five kilogrammes of crop can be harvested (depending on the kinds of crops we cultivate) from this in a season.
The cost of the vertical garden structure is Rs20,000 and State Horticultural Mission provides 75 percent subsidy in the initial period. A unit will have 16 pots and the buyer will get all the necessary items, including fertilizers and seeds too, upon buying a structure.
“We bought 10 units from IIHR on an experimental basis and installed two among them above our office in Thiruvananthapuram. During transportation, some tubes in the structure got damaged and it was the reason why we started thinking of developing it locally with the support of cooperative establishments like, the Kerala Agro Industries Corporation Limited (KAIC), Raidco etc. From IIHR, we can buy a unit for Rs19,400 and the cost of transportation is Rs1,000 per unit. A total of Rs 20,400 has to be spent for buying a unit. A buyer will get a unit at Rs5,000 as the state and central government will bear the cost of subsidy at 40:60 ratio,” said Sindhu N Panicker, Joint Director of Agriculture (State Horticulture Mission).
She also said that IIHR expressed willingness to transfer the technology for a price of Rs5800 and state cooperative institutions are willing to buy it. “KAIC and Raico demand Rs22,000 for each unit. It is a little higher and we are in the process of negotiations with them,” added Sindhu.
Various residents welfare associations have welcomed it and also expressed willingness to cooperate with the State Horticultural Mission to promote it. “Many of the families in urban areas are interested in farming but space concerns prevent them from doing it. This vertical garden structure seems promising. Let us experiment first. If it is successful, we will go for more such units,” said Gopalakrishnan B, President of Netaji Residents Association, Ernakulam.