By Mangal D. Karnad, Founder of FableSquare
Innovation is setting examples in almost every field. Agriculture is an area which is bound to adopt transformation adopting newer ways and innovative ways for productive yielding. Meet Hydrilla which is an initiative to bring sustainable farming methods to urban centres.
In an exclusive interaction with SMEStreet, Mamatha Kamireddy, Cofounder & CEO of Hydrilla explained the innovative model of her organization which is working in the area of cutting-edge agriculture industry by saying, “At Hydrilla, we have integrated Agricultural Sciences with the latest technology to produce healthy food with high nutritional value. It’s done with incredible variety, with more than 30 different plants growing vertically in only one square foot of floor space. It’s done free from harmful pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. It’s done with a proprietary blend or organics and hydroponic components. It’s done with a minimal amount of water nearly all of which is recaptured and reused. And maybe most important of all, it’s done with attention to detail and loving care.”
Edited excerpts of the interview:
Briefly explain your entrepreneurial journey so far
Like many other people even I had the desire of growing nutritious pesticide-free food. However, lack of time and knowledge were the key issues I faced. Staying in a metro like Bangalore, I could not invest the necessary time and effort needed to grow vegetables on my terrace using healthy organic practices. I could not provide the much-needed attention due to my busy lifestyle. That is when I heard about Hydroponics.
Though I heard of Hydroponics year’s back it has just remained an idea since that was the time I had launched startup BuildingeKart venturing into Architecture and construction services. After a few years, the idea of Hydroponics farming came back to me again and this time I decided to take it up. During further investigation, I and my partner Venkata SubbaReddy came across Aquaponics. The idea of growing fish and plants together in a symbiotic environment hit home and there was no looking back.
Why did you choose Hydroponics/Aquaponics (farming?) as your business idea? What is unique about this method of cultivation?
It is next to impossible to find safe food with current farming practices. Organic produce is very safe and environment-friendly. But the price is unaffordable for many of us and the availability is limited. We at Hydrilla practice farming using innovative methods like Aquaponics and Hydroponics for safe and low-cost food production. We are dedicated to increasing the adaptability and implementation of new technologies to provide one-stop solutions, at both community and personal levels.
What is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is basically the combination of hydroponics- the system of growing crops without soil- and aquaculture (traditional fish rearing) to form a simple integrated system that grows plants and fish together. In this case, the waste from the fish provides a ready organic food source for the plants and the plants filter the water for the fish naturally.
General Features and Benefits of Aquaponics:
- One system that can give fresh, organic vegetables and fish
- Simple to construct the system and economical in the long-run
- Requires a lot less space than traditional farming
- Overall healthy eating
- Water and energy efficient
- Completely free of parasites and weeds
What are the challenges you’ve faced along your entrepreneurial journey?
There is a lack of proper resources, education and necessary materials to establish the systems here in India. With our expertise in the construction industry, we could solve the difficulties w.r.tobuilding the Aquaponics systems as per the design principles. Getting systems design correct is of utmost importance in Aquaponics as it involves growing fish which are susceptible to minute errors in the environment.
Importing necessary Hydroponics systems can be expensive. Hydrilla is currently working on various Aquaponics and Hydroponics systems that can be easily installed and can be used readily by anyone who is interested in growing healthy food.
There is also potential to achieve greater yields and reduced crop cycles in Hydroponics farming provided the grower gives the right nutrients to the plants. The Hydroponics nutrients that are available in the Indian market are imported and they don’t match with our water source well. I have ventured into customizing and makingHydroponics nutrients on my own. As of today, I make Hydroponics nutrients customizing water-soluble fertilizers to a variety of crops. I have grown leafy greens like lettuce, Spinach, Herbs like Oregano, Thai Basil, Stevia and a variety of vegetables like Cherry tomatoes, Broccoli, English cucumbers, Green/Sweet peppers and fruits like Strawberries successfully.
Do you have any suggestions to make it easy to run a business?
Entrepreneurs must work on bringing the costs down for these system manufacturing and installation. Also, imparting the right knowledge on setting up farms, crop management, marketing the farm produce should be provided to the farmers so that farmers will embrace these farming methods without fearing the risks involved.
How do you market your offerings/workshops?
Hydrilla offers workshops on these farming methods with a 360-degree focus on understanding these systems, plant and fish management, crop management and marketing to achieve ROI. We follow only organic content marketing conveying the benefits of our workshops to interested farmers. Our workshops have participants from diversified backgrounds like terrace gardeners, IT professionals, entrepreneurs and even agricultural officers from various regions of India like Coimbatore and Lakshadweep Islands.
What are your aspirations/goals for the next year (short-term) and for the next 3-5 years (long-term)
Our immediate goal is to impart practical knowledge of these farming methods into Indian farming community and also work on the products front and make these farms economically viable. In long term, our aim is to make these farming methods mainstream, replacing the conventional farming methods wherever possible so that farmers can stop excessive use of chemicals and pesticides to grow nutritious healthy food.
Please include aspects that we have to pay attention to as women Entrepreneurs ( if you see anything worth mentioning)
Women entrepreneurs need to step boldly into any space and work towards the end goal in mind and not the obstacles. Any entrepreneur, man or woman, needs the right cofounder in the journey. We need to assess our strengths and weaknesses and find that right person and forget about gender issues.
Provide details of the size of your operations, turn over, your customers etc. (if possible)
Hydrilla is nearing its first anniversary. We are working at approximately 1 lakh INR revenue per month and reaching 2 lakh INR soon. We are a 4 member team. Apart from our workshops that have around 30 participants every month, we have a client base of around 300 customers buying various Hydroponics products and Aquaponics systems from us.