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Why this Indian entrepreneur roots for urban farming; says “It can build a sustainable future”

Aditya Bhalla’s Aeroganics offers clean food solutions apt for home and commercial growers



One has to pay a ‘high price’ for poisonous fruits and vegetables. A news report from 2019 suggests that vegetables supplied to large wholesale ‘mandis’ such as the ones in Azadpur, Ghazipur and Okhla and others sold at weekly markets by local vendors across the city, may have grown on the Yamuna floodplain which contains high doses of lead. On prolonged consumption, the same could trigger a range of diseases including cancer, and damage organs.

However, for urban dwellers, now these risks can be mitigated. How? By adopting urban farming. An alumnus of Apeejay School, Saket, Aditya Bhalla is the Founder and Technical Director at Aeroganics. The venture promises Delhites the freshest and highest quality culinary ingredients year-round. According to Bhalla, “Food is supposed to be a medicine. So, one should not have to take a pill after it” In the following interview, he shares more about his company, entrepreneurial journey and vision. Read on, edited excerpts from the interview.

Please detail out your educational and professional background.

I completed schooling from Apeejay, Saket. Then went to University of Windsor, Canada for a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Science, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Under that, I specialised in HPAC (Heating, Piping and Air- conditioning). This involved designing commercial-level HPAC systems and handling units, mechanical rooms, all of which kept one’s space in a controlled environment.

After this, I started my professional journey as an Application Engineer at Mafna Air Technologies Inc. in Ontario, Canada. Soon after, I moved to India and continued in the same company for a period of three years. By 2018, I was ready to start Aeroganics.

Why did you shift focus towards urban farming?

I am naturally inclined towards it. The course I took in Canada allowed me to understand how to create a suitable environment. And, to be able to do urban farming, this was the first and foremost criteria. So I began to build on my interest, researched and met with scientists at the prestigious Indian Agricultural Research Institute commonly known as the Pusa Institute in Delhi. They guided me about the nutritional requirements of the plants I wanted to grow as part of my venture.

What was the inspiration for Aeroganics?

The idea came from Canada. Unsurprisingly, the cold country requires a certain amount of produce throughout the year. So, it relies on greenhouses and poly houses along with the usage of hydroponic techniques to be able to meet that. As for me, I understood the agronomy part only once I returned to India. And, it took me about a year to upskill myself.

In due course, I learned, researched and experimented with several crops such as strawberries, blueberries and more to pick out the commercially viable ones. Then, Aeroganics came into being.    

Is hydroponics expensive? Can it be accommodated in a regular home?

Hydroponics is nothing but the technique of growing plants using a water-based nutrient solution rather than soil. Further, it can be done in an open environment as well. What we are doing at Aeroganics, is to create agricultural produce with the help of this and other specialised techniques. It is carried forward under a holistic and controlled environment.

We work on two sets of projects: for commercial and home-based uses. At home, one could grow a 48 planter or a 100 planter sufficient for a family of 4-6 members. These crops are inclusive of herbs and other leafy greens. One can also cycle the crops based on the weather. So, in winter, choose spinach, kale etc. and during summer, go for mint, tomatoes and bell peppers, just to mention a few. The cost ranges from Rupees 10 to 20 thousand in such a scenario.

For commercial farms, Aeroganics is equipped to set up poly houses and other systems. It includes temperature, humidity, and light sensors which are further connected to a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) as per the requirement of the crop. The cost for this can vary as per the requirement.

Do you think that this method is better than traditional farming?

Yes, absolutely. It involves less wastage, reduced cost of transportation and better quality of produce. Several government-run research facilities are also exploring options like these. A recent experiment was done in Srinagar for medicinal plants.

For someone wanting to start at home, your advice?

One only needs 4×4 feet of space to start with. If there is a balcony that can provide 4-6 hours of daily sunlight, that’s also enough. At the end of the day, the consumer needs to perform basic monitoring to check the EC and PH levels of the plant. Use water efficiently and enjoy the fresh produce through minimal human intervention.

Can this agricultural method be used for farmers?

Yes. However, they would have to develop the necessary skillset. Initially, they must demarcate a 500 square meter of land to try hydroponics with different crops. Eventually, they would realise that there are hidden benefits of this technique. For example, Spinach has the property of absorbing toxins from the soil. And if Yamuna water is used for it, we might be consuming a lot of heavy metals. But the hydroponic method makes way to avoid the same and provide the necessary nutrients to the plant. In a similar fashion, if tomatoes are grown using hydroponics, then it can be reaped in many different colours. The technique works wonders and can help in plant spacing since the plants are not competing with each other for nutrition.

Any upcoming trends in urban farming?

I think the field is on a boom. When I started in 2018, there were hardly any commercial farms. However, now the case is different. Also, the same can be performed in Tier-II and Tier-III cities. I even know someone in Kanpur doing it to obtain a high yield, so it is completely doable.

For new entrepreneurs, your message?

It requires a lot of community-building. Most of the retailers have collection centres near farms, so communication and collaboration is much needed. If you can have a common platform to buy and sell commodities, it will prove to be a boon.

How were school years at Apeejay, Saket?

The institution helped me become a confident individual. It laid the foundation for my growth. I was given positions of responsibility and also won the coveted Human Values Award during school. Further, I was much encouraged by my teachers and peers and these interactions made me who I am.  

Mrini Devnani is a Senior Correspondent and Marketing Coordinator at Newsroom. She covers student achievements, interviews and contributions for the website. She was a former Correspondent covering Edutech for the India Today Group, and has passion for Social Media and Digital Marketing. You can reach her at [email protected]

Poetic गुफ्तगू – With हुमेरा खान @poetsofDelhi