The ICAR-Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR) has developed a new vertical farming structure for “protected” cultivation of crops such as cabbage and cauliflower, besides flowers like lilium and gerbera.

The new structure, which can be as high as 12 feet, leads to effective space utilisation in a poly-house. This can result in productivity rising by up to six times compared with the conventional farming on a per unit area basis, scientists claimed.

The low-cost vertical farming structures consist of vertically stacked layers of around 11 tiers and have inbuilt wick-based drip irrigation in which the crops can be grown in bags containing soil-less substrate mix comprising coco-peat, vermicompost, paddy husk and spent mushroom, said C Aswath, Principal Scientist, IIHR.

With multiple stacked layers allowing increased utilisation of the unit area available in the poly-house by 5-6 times, and through higher planting density, the yield and productivity can be increased six times, Aswath said.

Planning to patent

The cost of setting up each of these structures which is one metre in width and three metres in breadth and about 12 feet in height comes around to ₹25,000, Aswath said. IIHR has proposed a subsidy of 50 per cent under the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture for the wider adoption of the new structures by farmers practising poly-house cultivation in urban and semi-urban areas, he said.

IIHR has set up these new vertical farming structures at the Centre of Excellence on Protected Cultivation of Horticultural Crops at its premises in Hessarghatta, Bengaluru, to demonstrate the cultivation of high-value floriculture crops like lilium and high-value vegetables such as broccoli and purple cabbage. Safeena SA, Senior Scientist, IIHR, said the institute was looking at patenting the new vertical farming structure design.

At the upcoming National Horticulture Fair starting Wednesday (February 22), IIHR will provide training to the farmers on the vertical farming techniques.

With shrinking land resources, vertical farming, which helps produce more crops from small areas throughout the year, is seen as an innovative solution to help address the growing food demand.

This distinctive method of farming aims at higher productivity in smaller spaces making efficient use of the available vertical space and uses soil-less farming methods.

Other vegetable crops such as beans, cauliflower, various leafy vegetables, fruits like strawberries and flowers such as gerbera, gypsophilia, gladiolus can be grown under the vertical farming method, Aswath said.