IIM Grad’s Hydroponics Startup Helps 5000 Farmers

Narang, an alumnus of IIM Kolkata never imagined he would set up a venture that would one day provide Indian homes with good quality produce. 

Prior to this, he worked in the pharma sector wherein he was involved in the supply chain of medicines. “We would provide speciality medicine and care services to patients suffering from chronic and life-threatening diseases like cancer, auto-immune diseases, diabetes, etc,” he says.

The correlation between the quality of food that people in cities consume and the diseases they are inflicted with was precedent enough for CityGreens to start their research. 

“We realised there is a dearth of good quality vegetables on the production side, and low farm yields due to the traditional way of growing produce,” says Narang. 

So, in an attempt to solve this problem, Narang says he decided to set up a venture wherein they would procure produce from different farms and then sell it. But, it wasn’t as simple. 

“When I sat down to understand the market, I realised ‘organic’ doesn’t always mean ‘free of pesticides’. Simply trying to bring order to the chaos was not a solution, as the problem was of a larger scale,” he says. This was when he began reading up about how western countries managed to get good quality produce during harvest, and stumbled upon the idea of hydroponics.

“Through further reading, I understood that this, though an attractive option, had once failed in India on its advent. I took it up as a challenge to start a venture that would ensure large-scale production of fresh, safe and healthy food for the masses, and do this through low-cost technology that we would share with farmers across the world,” he adds. 

Taking this ideology forward, in 2017, Narang quit the pharma sector to start CityGreens with his wife Shwaita. The couple was joined by Rahul Indorkar, another IIM Kolkata alumnus, as a co-founder in 2020. 

Once a farmer approaches them saying he wants to farm using hydroponics, the team at CityGreens first understands the crop in focus. 

“We then conduct research and use our previous knowledge to see if the crop has a market and is viable. Many people are under the impression that hydroponics is limited only to leafy greens, but this is not true,” says Narang. 

Once the crop is decided upon, the location is assessed by CityGreens experts and then climate patterns are mapped. “This helps us understand if the farmhouse should be climate controlled or naturally ventilated.”

The planning stage takes around a month. Following this, the team either sets up a polyhouse or integrates hydroponics technology on the farm and continues visiting the farmer at different times throughout the weeks to assess the performance. 

“During these weeks, a dry run is conducted to check the technology, and then our agronomists visit the farmers to help them with transplantation of the vegetable saplings,” he adds. By integrating their automation into the farm, farmers can ensure that human errors are eliminated, and productivity is increased. 

CityGreens has four farms in Ahmedabad, out of which three are hydroponic and one is indoor, and another is a hydroponic farm in Bengaluru. 

“Today, people are more aware of health, the prices and acceptance for hydroponic food which is quite good. This ensures good profitability and income for CityGreens and also for other farmers who are early movers and adopting these technologies,” says Narang. 

For their work, CityGreens was awarded a Rs 65 lakh grant from the Government for their venture

The story has been extracted from: https://www.thebetterindia.com/298712/iim-graduate-citygreens-hydroponics-startup-trains-farmers-increase-earnings/

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