Robert Switzer says that "In 1900, 42 percent of the U.S. population lived on farms; by 1990 that number had dwindled to less than 2 percent".
The loss of the small family farm has been a cause for concern for decades. Many rural farm towns have witnessed a slow collapse, as the economics of big agriculture work their way through the community.
But, as we learned recently, the situation in India has far surpassed what we are seeing in the U.S. We were honored with a visit from Mr. Mohan Bajikar, founder of the Vertical Farming Association of India, as he traveled the U.S. to build relationships and seek solutions for the crisis. Bajikar took some time to educate us on how indoor growing techniques are taking root in India, and why they are so critical.
Vertical Farming Takes Root in India
To get a sense of what is happening in India, we often rely on western media. If you have been following the story, you will be aware of how bad the crisis is. We often hear about challenges like soil depletion, water scarcity, and a soaring population. If you read much about Indian farming you will inevitably hear about a suicide crisis, as farmers go bankrupt and are faced with the associated loss of honor in the community.
These are difficult issues to write about. It shouldn’t be impossible for a hard working farmer to earn a living on his land.
What is going on? As we dig deeper into the issue, we find a narrative that goes like this: globalized crop prices are resulting in larger farms that can achieve an economy of scale. The result is bigger farms, powered by high amounts of debt and monocropping techniques. Most small farmers are simply unable to function in this economy.
To learn more, Bright Agrotech sat down with Mohan Bajikar, founder of the Vertical Farming Association, to learn how controlled environment growing techniques are helping stem the tide of destruction in India.
With a degree from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bajikar has been active in the agricultural community for decades, and was a key player in India’s export policies for organically grown food.
Bajikar has documented the region’s growing crisis in terms of soil depletion and water scarcity, and he has dedicated himself to representing the nation’s farmers.
Here are a few excerpts from our conversation:
Can you tell us about what is happening to small farmers in India?
The new government wanted to take over the land from the farmers, and they are paying them money. As it is more than 45-55% of the farmers have left farming, and they are coming to the city and living underneath the overpasses. It is a very bad situation.
Why is the ZipGrow technique relevant to growers in India?
After having read through your material [and seeing] your commitment to farmers, what impressed me was [that] your technology [is designed for] small size farms. You require a single farmer. And you only require a small capital budget. These three things standout to me as most vital.
You are not just selling the equipment, you are also helping the farmers with a lot of the process - how to grow the food...that is a key. After sales, service is the key. Not many people [in India] do that. They charge for that kind of information.
If I take you to India I can assure you people will be [following] you because [you have] brought out something that will help them to redeem themselves. Why would I have come otherwise?
Which Crops Are Driving Growth in Vertical Farming in India?
Mohan Bajikar, founder of the Vertical Farming Association, joins Nate Storey of Bright Agrotech for a discussion on the vertical farming industry in India.
All medicinal herbs are excellent because India is known for herbal medicine so that is one of the major areas of interest for us right now. For farmers, there are many leafy crops and vegetables that I cannot translate into English. And for almost all of them, the priority is to provide organically grown food.
The good news is that there is a growing number of people working carefully for food security around the world. Mr. Bajikar is a dedicated advocate for economic development in his country, and we are thrilled to witness the efforts that are taking place.
This week Dr. Nate will be speaking at Asia’s first Indoor Ag Con. The event will focus on research based topics, as well as commercial applications of the technology.
This kind of event symbolizes the huge growth that is taking place in agricultural technology, and it's a huge opportunity for investors, farmers, and vendors in some of the most densely populated parts of the world to learn how indoor farming equipment like ZipGrow towers can enable a brighter food future.
Please visit Indoor Ag Con's website if you would like to learn more.
Mohan Bajikar has been supporting farmers in India for many years. He is the founder of the Vertical Farming Association, and was one of the early promoters of organically grown food in India.
Learn more about the ZipFarm:
¹A Family Farm: Life on an Illinois Dairy Farm, Switzer." 2011. 11 Jan. 2016 http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/F/bo13188734.html>
² Philpott, Tom. "No, GMOs Didn't Create India's Farmer Suicide Problem, But..." Mother Jones. N.p., 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.