We must look into alternatives that require less space but a more efficient way to produce vegetables and fruits
Last year I had an opportunity to feature an organization (Green Savers), that worked with providing a sustainable solution for growing food, especially for the urban population. With an ever-growing number of inhabitants in the major metropolitans and a decreasing number of open spaces for cultivation, given that any piece of land is very expensive to be used for farming. We must look into alternatives that require less space but a more efficient way to produce vegetables and fruits.
Urban farming these days has acquired several upgrades as more people are getting interested in it. With agriculture being the heart of Bangladesh’s economy, millions of people around the country are engaged in this sector, but it’s far from having an efficient supply chain as crops, vegetables and livestock become extremely expensive by the time they get to the markets around the major cities. For example, a litre of raw milk in Chandpur costs around Tk 55 to Tk 60, in Dhaka it varies from Tk 80 to Tk 100. It’s because farms around the cities have to spend extra on cattle feed and the scarce land means, there is very little to no space to grow grass. The grass is especially more important for dairy cows as milk yields largely depend on it.
Across Bangladesh, there is a rising number of modern dairy and cattle farmers who are adopting new ways to produce fodder that are way more efficient and reliable. Hydroponic farming provides that perfect solution. The main principles of hydroponics are increased oxygen to the root zone, and liquid feed delivered directly to roots. These factors result in increased growth rates, and increased yields when compared to traditional soil gardens where much lower oxygen and often nutrient levels are present. This method enables farmers to expand production vertically, reducing dependency on soil and from using up too much space, which is financially more feasible.
As I mentioned urban farming going up a few notches, it is quite literally so. Vertical expansion of farming isn’t only limited to growing fodder, vegetables or fruits. A few are trying to raise livestock in a similar manner as well. Last month Shykh Seraj wrote an article on the Daily Star regarding this, where a man named Zakir Hossain has done the most unexpected, running a full-fledged cattle farm in a multi-storied building. Producing 300 litres of milk every day apart from an additional section for beef fattening, which is next to impossible to achieve in a small space of only four kathas. The entire production is taking place in the capital’s Jatrabari area, a living proof of the possibilities of vertical farming.
However, there are a few challenges, one being associated with the cost for such set-ups. A hydroponic fodder system can set a farmer back between Tk 1.5-3 lacs, even more, depending on the size and capacity of the setup. The availability of technology is another major issue as there are simply not enough experts to accommodate everyone. Green Savers Association is an organization working with projects like this, but more such institutions need to come forward with their expertise to train the farmers and share their knowledge of the benefits of growing produce vertically.