With India still grappling with all its environmental issues, Discovery Channel is all set to air a four-part original documentary series called Planet Healers which is going to feature eight environment-friendly startups and will be hosted by the Bollywood actor Jim Sarbh. The startups have been selected from all over India, including Hyderabad. UrbanKisaan, founded in 2017 by Vihari Kanukollu, Dr Sairam, and Srinivas Chaganti, grows pesticide-free produce in ‘soil-less’ vertical farms located in cities, using 95 per cent less water.
Elaborating on how everything started two years ago, the 25-year-old Hyderabad born co-founder of the agritech startup says, “Social issues have always been on my mind. I happened to read in a report that by 2050, we will have 50 per cent less food than what will be required to sustain lives. The same report also predicted that there will be 30 per cent less water supply and 20 per cent less of land fit for cultivation. The issue won’t resolve on its own if the people don’t join hands to fix it, because the second generation farmers are not so focussed on farming as they are on financially lucrative work.”
That was when he collaborated with Dr Sairam, a scientist, and Srinivas Chaganti, who developed a nutrient solution and is a proponent of the technique of Hydroponic farming. “Hydroponic farming is a soil-less farming technique. It replaces the soil with nutrient solution and hence, can be used to grow crops indoors. With timely nutrition and light, these plants grow without the need for pesticides. Hydroponic farms are ideal for the urban environment and can give city dwellers access to fresh produce every day right from their own kitchen or rooftop,” explains Vihari.
Discovery Channel took notice of UrbanKissan’s Hydroponic farming and shortlisted them for their new series. Ably equipped with technology, the team of three wants to change the way people look at farming. “I would not have achieved even a mere percentage of this without technology. I believe, technology is the way ahead to deal with farming and environment issues,” says the commerce graduate and cost accountant, who completed his studies in Chennai and came back to Hyderabad afterwards.
According to Vihari, they want everyone to get easy access to good produce and encourage agricultural entrepreneurship. “With an office in Ameerpet, we are raring to go to make our lives more organic. And for this, we need more and more people to join our bandwagon and experience fresh greens without pesticides. Maintaining a home farm is not a hassle. The automated home kit, which costs anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 15,000, doesn’t require lots of space only 2X4 sq. ft. and that can easily suffice for 36 plants. Also, home farms require only 15 minutes a week to look after and as an end result, what we get is pesticide-free produce from within our residential premises,” he shares.
So what else is on the youngster’s mind? “In the next 20 days, we will be inaugurating our first and one-of-a-kind-farm at Road No. 36 in Jubilee Hills. People can walk in and order growing produce and watch the whole process and take back with them, fresh produce devoid of pesticides,” concludes Vihari....