Hydroponics Food

Growing salad sans soil

Sachin and Shwetha Darbarwar of Simply Fresh. This farm uses the hydroponic technique to grow exotic salads leaves, vegetables and flowers

Sachin and Shwetha Darbarwar of Simply Fresh. This farm uses the hydroponic technique to grow exotic salads leaves, vegetables and flowers  

A farm in Hyderabad is growing imported varieties of salad leaves, veggies, berries and flowers using hydroponics

Flowers and fruits like pansies and raspberries are known to grow and flourish in colder climates. A desire to taste them meant waiting till one had an opportunity to go abroad or settle for the imported brands of dehydrated fruits.

Recently when my dessert came with a pansy on top instead of a cherry at a star hotel, I was caught between the idea of cancelling the order and deciding on which kidney to part with. Out of curiosity, I enquired where the flowers came from/ ‘A few kilometres from the heart of the city, from a village on the Medchal highway,’ came the reply.

This made me doubt my knowledge on that variety of flowers, so I turned to Google for more information on the suitable flowering conditions for these exotic flowers. While I wasn’t wrong, the information provided to me on these flowers growing in a hot and dry city like Hyderabad wasn’t false either. Clearly, Hyderabad is now growing more than just pansies.

My next move was to track down these people who grew them in this part of the world, which also introduced me to hydroponic farming.

Sachin and Shwetha Darbarwar of Simply Fresh have been cultivating exotic flowers, vegetables, fruits and leaves in almost two acres of land through hydroponic farming and are now the biggest and the sole suppliers of all salad leaves, exotic berries, salad veggies, and edible flowers to almost all leading star hotels in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai.

Sachin and Shwetha Darbarwar of Simply Fresh. This farm uses the hydroponic technique to grow exotic salads leaves, vegetables and flowers

Sachin and Shwetha Darbarwar of Simply Fresh. This farm uses the hydroponic technique to grow exotic salads leaves, vegetables and flowers  

But what exactly is hydroponics? In short, hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil. It grows a few feet from the ground through a technique which feeds the seeds and plants with minerals combined with water. Explaining the technique of cultivation, Sachin says, “Instead of having their roots supported and nourished by soil, the plants are supported by an inert growing medium like cocopeat and are fed via a nutrient-rich water solution.”

A visit to the farm clarifies things as Sachin and his team explain the various stages. Their farm is digitally controlled by bit data, which determines and detects climate conditions and requirement for the plants and alters the environment to suit their need. Sachin spent three years learning the process in Australia and later developing the technique.

Sachin and Shwetha Darbarwar of Simply Fresh. This farm uses the hydroponic technique to grow exotic salads leaves, vegetables and flowers

Sachin and Shwetha Darbarwar of Simply Fresh. This farm uses the hydroponic technique to grow exotic salads leaves, vegetables and flowers  

From kale, to rocket leaves, romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce and red leaf lettuce they grow as if they belong to the city’s climate. Different cultivations are grouped together to make the best use of the climatic condition that’s created here. “The walls of some greenhouses are made using sustainable paper. Water passes through the gaps to keep it cool and then the exhaust fans are used to create humid to dry weather conditions. The plant beds are all monitored and so is the amount of nutrients that are provided. It is like feeding a child the right amount of food at regular intervals for them to grow,” explains Sachin.

Sachin and Shwetha however were not farmers all their life. As their son picks raspberries and strawberries, Sachin says, “Our aim was to make available to everyone nutritious food which is free of chemicals and pesticides. Any of our products can be eaten straight from the packet. According to me, washing my produce in chlorine water can contaminate them,” he smiles.

Leaves and shoots Sachin and Shwetha Darbarwar of Simply Fresh. This farm uses the hydroponic technique to grow exotic salads leaves, vegetables and flowers

Leaves and shoots Sachin and Shwetha Darbarwar of Simply Fresh. This farm uses the hydroponic technique to grow exotic salads leaves, vegetables and flowers  

Having been a software developer at a bank in Australia for several years, Sachin and his wife wanted to return to their country to take up farming. “Even though hydroponics isn't new in Western countries, it is relatively new here. We were keen on trying it here. In the process, we made incurred losses but was not ready to give up. After a lot of trial and error we could reach this stage. Everyone has been very supportive after seeing our products,” says Sachin.

Their aim to start Simply Fresh is to make salads interesting and colourful. While they don’t market their produce as organic, their loyal clientèle vouch for it being free of pesticides and harmful chemicals.

This system, Sachin says, is good method of conserving water as it uses very less water when compared to traditional farming methods.

Sachin and Shwetha Darbarwar of Simply Fresh. This farm uses the hydroponic technique to grow exotic salads leaves, vegetables and flowers

Sachin and Shwetha Darbarwar of Simply Fresh. This farm uses the hydroponic technique to grow exotic salads leaves, vegetables and flowers  

Now growing

    Heirloom tomatoes

    Green Jalapenos

    Snow peas

Look for them at

    Nature’s Basket

    Big Bazaar

    Hyper-City

    Online

    Big Basket

In cities

    Bengaluru

    Chennai

    Hyderabad

    Mumbai

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 11:36:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/hydroponics-simply-fresh-farming-sachin-and-shwetha-darbarwar-hyderabad/article19502552.ece

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