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USAID MA HYDROPONICS PROPOSAL

I. ABOUT PROJECT
1. Title
Improving the lives and livelihood of farming community through vegetable farming using new
technologies (simplified hydroponics).

2. Short-term objective (3 years)


To create a scalable and self-sustaining ‘farmer to retail shop’ model for vegetable cultivation using
new technologies (Hydroponics) that will improve access to quality vegetables (for urban and rural),
while directly adding to the income of farmers.

3. Long-term objective (beyond 3 years)


To improve the lives and livelihoods of farmers by creating triple impact on livelihoods, Sustainable
Agriculture and Nutrition.

II. PROJECT DETAILS


2.1 Project overview: Give us a detailed summary of your project, what you intend to do and
achieve, and why this project/ solution is required? (Attach a separate document of not more than
four A4 Size pages).
Summary:
In order to increase ‘pesticide-free’ vegetable production and include small and marginalized
farmers in the supply chain, the project intends to promote simplified hydroponics in two vegetable
deficit districts of Karnataka. Farmers will be trained to start cultivation, even if they have limited,
unfertile land. Farmers will be given access to loans through MFIs and SHG bank linkages to start
these gardens. Produce from these gardens will be aggregated and supplied to urban retail chains,
which will market and sell this produce to consumers. Given that the produce will be ‘pesticide-free’,
we expect to sell the produce at 10% premium to consumers, which will benefit the farmers and will
also pay for model facilitation in the stable state.

Problem statement / Opportunity:


Vegetables available in urban India are usually highly contaminated with pesticides as well as heavy
use of fertilizers. Major vegetables like tomato, okra, cabbage, brinjal, capsicum, potato and
cauliflower showed contamination with organochlorines, organophosphates, synthetic pyrethroids
and carbamate insecticides. During 1988-2000, among samples tested 61% were found
contaminated with about 11 per cent samples having residues above MRL 1. Organochlorines are
allegedly responsible for most of the contamination. Around 40 per cent of all pesticides used in
India are organochlorines. These are resistant to environmental pressures and increase their
concentration through the biological food chain. They allegedly interfere with male and female
hormones, modifying development and reproduction in bird and mammals with effects suspected to
be transgenerational. Pesticides penetrate not only the initial target, but also the water, soil, plants
animals and humans. They enter the human body through the skin, breathing or eating, by direct
involvement with pesticides or through food products. They are present not only in plant products
but also in meat and dairy products.

The All-India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) in 2003 on Pesticides Residue said of the 529
market samples of different vegetables such as okra, tomato and cauliflower tested at all 17 centres
of AICRP around the country in 2002, 63.5 per cent was found contaminated with residues of
different pesticides. However, only 8.5 per cent of the samples contained residues above Maximum

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“Key issues in post harvest management of fruits and vegetables in India” - Lalsiemlien Pulamte

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Residue Limit (MRL) values, as compared with 12 per cent earlier year. Similarly, of the 329 samples
of fruits tested by all centres, 47 per cent was contaminated.

Land degradation and shortage of cultivable land: Together with an increase in population land
shortage in India has also increased in the already small per capita agricultural lands. As a result of
fragmentation the number of land holdings has increased from 48 million in 1960 to 105 million in
1990 and is still more today. Most holdings (> 75%) are less than 2 ha (small and marginal). While
there is virtually no culturable unused land in the country the population to be supported from this
finite land resource is growing fast. They combine to produce land shortages, resulting in small
farms, low production per person and increasing landlessness whose consequence in term, is
poverty.

According to the estimates of actual land-use and vegetation cover by the National Remote Sensing
Agency and the Forest Survey of India based on satellite imagery, 80 mha out of 142 mha under
cultivation is substantially degraded and about 40 mha out of 75 mha under the forest departments
has a canopy cover of less than 40% (Gadgil 1993). Thus, a total of 131 mha, representing about 40%
of the country’s landmass, has productivity well below its potential. According to Wastelands Atlas
of India 2000 (1:50,000 scale map), the total wastelands area covered in 584 districts is 63.85 million
which accounts 20.17% of the total geographical area2.

The NSS records that between 1961 and 2002–3, the proportion of farms that were classified as
marginal (less than one hectare) increased from 39 per cent of all farms to nearly 70 per cent of all
farms about 43 per cent of households own no land, while about 22 per cent farm plots that are less
than half a hectare.

While organic farming can solve the problem of pesticides, the costs and margins for organic farming
are only now building up and accessible only to the very organised or large scale farmer. Simplified
hydroponics offers a new way of cultivation which promotes all aspects of sustainable agriculture
(water, nutrients, etc) and therefore offers an alternative to organic farming. Simplified hydroponics
offers other advantages - can be produced even by persons with no land or limited land and needs
little training and hand holding.

According to a joint study conducted earlier by CII and McKenzie, at least 50% of the produced fruits
and vegetables in the country are lost due to wastage and value destruction. Post-harvest losses
cannot be contained unless there is an integrated approach to cultivation to retail shelf, using the
latest technologies (for production, post-harvest, storage, transport, stocking)3. Another study
conducted by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) says development of organised
retailing will lead to increased efficiency in the agriculture sector and remove intermediaries in the
food supply chain4. We foresee higher prices for farmers selling to such supermarkets, especially in
cases where there are stringent quality requirements.

India’s vegetable demand is led by urban India. Most rural districts surrounding big cities, with
reasonable irrigation facilities, provide the bulk of vegetables. Vegetable cultivation therefore is
very urban market centric. Small districts, rainfed districts and districts which are away from urban
centres produce little – sometimes even for their own consumption. This affects the nutrition status
in these districts. In fact the rainfed, nutritionally poor and far from urban centre districts are many
times co-terminus. Organic farming or other methods of farming will not increase production in
these districts; this is where hydroponics provides an alternative.

2
State of Environment , India, Regional Resource Centre for Asia and the Pacific (RRC.AP), 2001
3
The Hindu, 7 July 2003
4 RETAILING AND BRANDING OF VEGETABLESAND FRUITS: AN EXPLORATORY STUDY, Pranjana, Vol 13, No 2, Jul-
Dec, 2010

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So the urban and rural problem of vegetables is an opportunity for farmers – provided they have the
right technology and that technology does not exclude and in fact includes BOP families. Simplified
hydroponics has the potential to do precisely that – It can help BOP families (and other farmers)
grow vegetables which have no or controlled pesticides, keep a portion with them for self-
consumption and sell the other at a small premium – benefiting all in the supply chain – from
producer to the consumer.

Home gardens lead to increase in income as well as increase in food consumption: Home stead
gardens in the past have proven to lead to increase in household income as well as increase the food
consumption levels. The production of fruits and vegetables provides the household with direct
access to important nutrients that may not be readily available or within household economic reach.
In addition, home gardening increases the diversity of foods available to households, which in turn
leads to better overall utilization of nutrients, including calories. Equally important, home gardens
have been shown to be a source of additional income for households through the sale of a part of
the garden produce. Monitoring conducted by Helen Keller International (HKI) in Bangladesh
demonstrated an increase in the average weekly vegetable consumption per capita among
households with home gardens5. Hence we strongly believe the model of promoting home gardens
among small, landless farmers will have ripple effects on the families’ health.

What we intend to do:


The consortium led by Swasti proposes to implement simplified hydroponics technology to increase
vegetable production and provide supplementary income to marginal, landless farmers. We plan to
implement the project in two vegetable deficit districts of Karnataka.

Simplified hydroponics is a technology incorporating soil-less culture techniques without the use of
mechanical devices or testing equipment. The only energy requirements for garden operation are
natural sunlight and human labour. Simplified hydroponics has evolved to be accessible to people
with limited resources. For this reason it is optimized to utilize minimal inputs of land space, water,
nutrients, and grower infrastructure. Past projects in several countries have evolved a technology
that incorporates low inputs and concentrates on utilizing recycled materials, or agricultural wastes.

Farmers will be offered the choice of participating in this pilot. Farmers who opt into the project will
be categorized into three categories based on their income and interest. Each category will be
offered a model of engagement – small, medium or large scale garden. We will train them on
hydroponics and assist them in building these gardens. For volumes, credit linkages will be created,
with the help of MFIs (or SHG-bank linkages where available).

On the demand side, we will also liaison with retail chains in urban areas interested in marketing and
selling hydroponic produce 6. Once the harvest is ready, the produce will be aggregated and supplied
it to the urban retailer. The retailer will be responsible for selling the product, which will fetch a
slightly higher price premium (10 %). The profits from the sale will ensure increase in income for
farmers, pesticide-free food to consumers and generate surplus which will cover cost of training and
project management over a few years of implementation.

The key advantage of having an NGO interface is to improve efficiency and cut-down
implementation time by riding existing social infrastructure, as farmers have already been
aggregated. The MFI will serve the role of a financer for other farmers who want to take up this
activity independently.

5 Helen Keller International/Cambodia (2003). Handbook for Home Gardening in Cambodia: The Complete Manual for
Vegetable and Fruit Production. Phnom Penh: Helen Keller Worldwide
6
Initial interest has been shown by both METRO and Reliance Fresh

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The grant will be utilized to build demo sites where crops will be grown hydroponically and a smaller
pilot will be implemented to establish the financial viability of the model. On doing this, we foresee
uptake of this technology by farmers (including marginal farmers). Through the period of the pilot,
we will create an enabling environment for the uptake – marketing of the technology and its
benefits, financing product with the MFI/SHG, identification of profitable crops with methodologies
to cultivate, strong technical support structures at the local level and market-linkage with urban
retail chains to assure minimum price. If farmers take up hydroponics cultivation, it will reflect the
success of the pilot.

The pilot project will have three phases of operation


1. Pre-launch Phase
2. Implementation Phase
3. Readying for Scale up Phase

Pre-launch Phase:
In the pre-launch phase, the project management team will work with IDF (the NGO and MFI) to
identify the blocks within the districts where this technology will be most relevant. We have decided
to work in two districts – One not close to any urban markets (and vegetable deficit) – Begaum
District in Karnataka and another district (Tumkur) close to a large urban market (Bangalore) – but
still poor and not a large vegetable cultivating district. The two contrasting districts are chosen to
get the right lessons for the model from all different perspectives – Markets (Local, Urban), Water
availability and Vegetable deficit areas. Each will present different challenges and advantages, and
we would like to test the technology in both circumstances.

We will select one block within each district to start with the demo gardens. The blocks will be
selected based on the following criteria
 Having shortage of vegetables (due to low production and inadequate supply)
 Having large proportion of non-arable or degraded land, land which is unfit for cultivation
due to salinity or water logging
 Has larger than district average of landless and marginal farmers
 Technically feasible geography to implement hydroponics – minimum supply of water,
(though the water requirement in hydroponics is 1/4th the requirement in flood irrigation),
quality of water with favourable pH and EC and away from large poultry/veterinary farms
which cause pest attacks

Once the blocks are chosen, a communications campaign will be launched to the IDF to explain the
significance and benefits of hydroponics. We will also explain the requirements and encourage
members to enrol into the pilot to run demonstration sites.

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Types of demonstration sites
We propose to try 3 kinds of demonstration sites for different three categories of farmers. Farmers
will choose which category they would like to opt into. These categories have been designed keeping
in mind the varying income levels of farmers within a block and varying levels of risk taking ability
and interest. This will also help us test the most optimal methods to promote this technology at
scale up stage. The 3 categories and rationale for design are explained below.

We will be promoting 20 farmers per district to start home stead gardens, 2 mid-sized polyhouses
(either shared by a group of farmers or run single-handedly) and 1 commercial polyhouse. Since the
farmers in the first category are likely to be more disadvantaged, we intend to provide most of the
grant support to them to start these demonstration sites. Support will be provided for the first two
years. The farmers opting for mid-sized gardens will mostly be progressive farmers, who can access
significant credit through the banking channel. The mid-sized gardens will be provided lesser grant
support. The farmers opting for commercial polyhouses will be well-to-do individual entrepreneurs.
Our focus will be on home stead gardens. We will also support mid-sized gardens as we need
volumes to supply to retail chains.

Even in the case of home stead and mid-sized garden, we will collect at least 10% of the investment
from the farmers starting home stead gardens to increase their ownership of these gardens. The
home stead garden is estimated to cost about Rs.15,000 in the setup year and Rs. 2500 from the
second year onwards.

The mid-sized garden is estimated to cost Rs.2,00,000 in the setup year and Rs. 8000 from the
second year onwards. The farmer or group of farmers will be asked to invest 50% of the cost of the
garden.

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A ¼ acre commercial polyhouse will cost about Rs.20,00,000 but we do not propose to offer
financial support for commercial cultivation at this stage.

LARGE COMMERCIAL
HOME STEAD GARDENS MID-SIZED GARDENS
POLYHOUSES

100 – 400 sq.feet 1000 sq. feet 10,000 sq.feet or higher


20 farmers per block 2 farmers per block 1 farmer per block
Simplified Hydroponics Simplified Hydroponics Commercial Hydroponics
Farmers who have land around Progressive farmers who can access a Farmers who want to take
their houses and would like to bank loan or self-finance a mid-sized up commercial hydroponics
take up small scale growing. polyhouse to take up cultivation on a to grow sell much higher
larger scale. volumes
Typically small, landless marginal Progressive farmers with access to Farmers with higher
farmers common plot of non-arable land income levels and better
access to credit
Farmers with restricted mobility Farmers who can spare 3-4 hours per day Farmers who grow
due to household commitments in the polyhouse for supplementary commercially with close
like children, and with limited income (group farming), or single farmer supervision
time who draws primary income from
polyhouse
Cost per unit: Rs.12, 500 Rs.2,00,000 Rs.20,00,000
Grant support sought per unit: Rs,1,00,000 Nil
Rs.11,250
Unfunded capital – potential
source:
Can fund through SHG Can fund through bank loan Can fund through Bank
savings/SHG-Bank linkage/MFI loan
loans

Training Centre set up


We will set one central training centre in one district where the first demonstration garden will be
set-up. We will train the farmers enrolled into the programme and our field supervisors on simplified
hydroponics at this centre. The first set of trainees will move up to be master trainers at scale up
stage. Farmers will also have access to technical support through experts in Bangalore and Bidadi.
Communication through e-mail which is accompanied by photographs of the plants can serve as an

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effective tool for trouble shooting. Similarly we can also tap into a world-wide network on
hydroponics experts over the internet and email through the International Institute of Simplified
Hydroponics for major technical issues.

This centre will also be used as experiment sites to grow newer crops and expand the basket of
available crops for the farmers. Focus will be to grow higher-value crops that can fetch a better
market price.

Implementation Phase:
The implementation phase will see the following key activities:
i. Activities at the district level with farmers:
 Farmers recruited will go through training in batches / groups
 Each group will undergo the learning and capacity building sessions on hydroponics. The
purpose of this group is to also enable savings at a later stage if required.
 Selection of crops to be grown, in consultation with farmers, technical experts and retail
chains. Within these gardens, farmers will be asked to grow one single crop to ensure
consistent quality and larger volumes for supply
 Building home and mid-sized gardens
 For the first few harvest, we recommend growing green leafy vegetables like spinach,
methi, coriander or French beans as these are shorter cycle crops and are suited to
hydroponic cultivation*
 Conducting baseline survey of selected farmers and their families to understand income
levels, primary occupation and diet patterns, especially vegetable consumption
 Support and supervision of gardens and aggregation of produce at district level
ii. Nutrition education
 Awareness sessions with farmers on need for including vegetables in their diet and
importance of micronutrients, especially for women and children, motivation of change
behaviour and inclusion of diverse foods in daily diets. This will be done through
SHG/MFI meetings
iii. Monitoring and Evaluation
 A monitoring and evaluation plan will be put in place to check progress of each farmer.
Poor performing farmers will be assisted and eventually dropped if we notice lack of
interest. A new farmer will be enrolled into this place
 We will also document the processes and closely monitor each garden to get accurate
costing details of each crop
 An endline survey will be conducted with the enrolled families to understand increase in
supplementary income and change in diet patterns
iv. Interface with retail chain
 Negotiation with urban retail chains on crop for buy-back with minimum price assured
for farmers
 Agreements with retail chain on roles including logistics and marketing
 In the first few months, the harvest produced by the scattered home stead gardens
might be variable and at different periods. Hence at the end of first year, only produce
from the existing demo gardens will be supplied to retail chains on a on a trial basis to
test acceptability by consumers.

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 In order to support the poorest families, we will return 10 % of the produce to the family
when they sell their produce, though they will be paid for the entire crop. This will
ensure availability of vegetables for the household consumption. This is applicable only
to families growing home stead gardens.

* We would go for Cherry tomato, Lettuce and Basil in later cycles. Commercial polyhouses can also
try certain varieties of flowers that are in high demand in the market.

Readying for scale-up Phase:


Once 2-3 cycles of harvest from the farmers in demo sites have been supplied to the retail market
and uptake by consumers is observed, a loan product will be designed with an MFI to offer credit to
small farmers, who would like to take up home stead or grouped home stead gardens. Wherever
IDF Financial Services is present, its network will be leveraged. In other districts, we will look to
partner with MFIs working locally (other sources of credit like SHG-bank linkages, with cooperative
banks, etc will also be explored). By then we will also have a clearer estimate of the kinds of returns
expected and the time needed to make repayments. We will also have a list of crops that have been
grown successfully in that region, which we can promote.

This product will be marketed to the farmers enrolled with the MFI, in the entire two districts. We
will provide training through the training centre and assist in starting their gardens. We expect
uptake of these gardens by many farmers from within the district once we have proven the model in
the pilot. As more farmers practice this technology, we will have larger volumes to supply to retail
chains. At this stage commercial supply to retail chains will be activated. We can negotiate better
prices with the retail chains at this point.

2.2 Geographical location & coverage of project execution and activities


We propose to implement the pilot of two districts of Karnataka, leveraging IDF presence and
providing a range of challenges to test the model. One district not close to any urban markets (and
vegetable deficit) – Belgaum District and another district (Tumkur) close to a large urban market
(Bangalore) – but still poor and not a large vegetable cultivating district. The two contrasting
districts are chosen to get the right lessons for the model from all different perspectives – Markets
(Local, Urban), Water availability and Vegetable deficit areas. Each will present different challenges
and advantages, and we would like to test the technology in both circumstances.

In each district we will work with 20 farmers on demonstration home stead gardens, 2 mid-sized
gardens managed by a single farmer each and 1 farmer cultivating in a commercial polyhouse. (The
mid-sized gardens and commercial polyhouse will only be started if farmers volunteer to invest
partially and take up this activity. Else the grant kept for the mid-sized gardens will be used to enrol
more families to take up home stead gardens).

In total we estimate 10 large farmers, 50 Medium size farmers, 250 small holders / home garden
farmers will be enrolled per district and provide their produce, once operations stabilise. We are
seeking the grant to pilot test the technology and the model for two years. On the success of this
pilot, the model will be scaled and revenues will be generated to pay for model eco-system building
costs over year 3 to year 5. The premium of 10% charged on produce will pay for the cost of
operating the model in the stable state when the model will be financially self-sustainable.

2.3 Is this a new project or an addition to an existing project?

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Depending on the Development Status (given in LoI Stage), tell us what has been done so far:
Details of work done so far, results of work done so Far:
The hydroponics project was initiated within Swasti early this year and is a new project. We have
experimented with the technology investing our own funds; to better understand its applications,
costing and limitations. Several steps have been undertaken that have added to our technical
understanding and helped us design a market-based model that has potential to scale.

Feb-April 2012: Swasti recruited one full time staff with Bachelors in Agriculture to focus on
experiments with simplified hydroponics. Two staff from Swasti were trained in Simplified
Hydroponics at the Indian Institute of simplified hydroponics. Secondary research was conducted on
the Fruits & vegetables market in India, urban retail chain in India and its advantages and challenges.
Exploratory meetings were held with urban retail chains like Reliance and METRO to understand
their interest in hydroponic produce and their motivations. We also had meetings with MFI groups
like IDF and NGOs working in rural areas with farmers (SCOPE in Dharward) to test the relevance of
this technology and evolve a model that can meet their needs. Field visits were made to rural areas
to interact with farmers, visit their homes and understand the availability of land and other local
resources. We also met with FRLHT, to identify the market potential of medicinal plants and CIKS in
Chennai to understand the issues faced and successes in organic farming.

May-December 2012: In this duration, three independent garden experiments were taken up .

Roof top garden in Swasti office, Bangalore: A 100 square feet experimental lab was set up on the
office roof top in Bangalore. The objective was to test feasibility of growing crops and to identify
challenges involved. This lab also serves as a site that helps us estimate the unit cost of growing
vegetables in simplified hydroponics. The crops here are closely monitored every day and detailed
records and observations are maintained of each crop. Our team has grown the following crops
successfully: Spinach, Coriander (3 cycles each), Methi, Radish (2 cycles each), French beans, Ginger
and Basil (1 cycle each). The other crops currently under experiment are tomatoes, brinjal and chilly.

Rural Pilot in Medak District, Andhra Pradesh: Swasti also conducted a pilot with four farmers in
Medak district in rural AP. These farmers were trained on simplified hydroponics and voluntarily
took up home garden experiments. Two farmers set up gardens on their roof tops, and two set up
gardens around their houses. They successfully grew Spinach, chillies, coriander, tomatoes, French
beans and carrot. This project helped us establish that farmers have the ability and inclination to
grasp the technology and apply it in their local settings.

Organoponics pilot with CIKS, Sukkankollai and Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu: In the period of
August to November, CIKS partnered with us to experiment with organic methods of
growing crops in hydroponics, called organoponics. This technology only uses organic inputs
for cultivation instead of inorganic nutrients. The objective was to test feasibility and
estimate if crops could be grown more cost-effectively. CIKS experimented with three
methods – cocopeat method, deep float method and nutrient film solution method at two
location in Tamil Nadu and tried to grow coriander, fenugreek, tomato, amaranthus and
chilly. Though the crops grew partially, successful cultivation using this method has not been

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achieved yet. The issues that were identified are being addressed in a new experiment
about to start next year.

Full Details of the Know How. Has it been tested and/or validated by anyone?
Though these are the simplified hydroponics experiments at our lab sites, several successful
examples exist from across the world where home gardens and commercial hydroponics have been
successful. Both ISH and HGT have had tremendous success in growing a wide range of vegetables in
simplified and commercial hydroponics. Both these organizations will bring their expertise on board
to our project as partners.

Projects by Hydroponic Greenhouse Technologies India Private Limited (HGTIPL)


 The Institute of Simplified Hydroponics, USA along with Institute of Simplified Hydroponics,
India has launched the “Pet Bharo – Hydroponics for sustainability” project, in Bangalore in
January, 2009. The project aims to empower the people of India by making available low cost,
easy to learn hydroponics or soilless production that does not call for any degree of literacy or
prior farming experience. The project is to help the people in rural and urban settlements to
achieve sustainable livelihood, by dissemination of knowledge and supplying the associated
tools to grow vegetables, fruits, ornamentals and herbs.

HGT has successfully grown a range of vegetables in simplified hydroponics, which include
Green Chillies, Cucumber, Brinjal, Okra, Potato, Tomato, Radish, Methi, Corinader, Cabbage,
Cauliflower, Ginger, Carrot, Zucchini, Gherkins, Knol-Khol and Lettuce. Some of HGT’s successful
projects are:

1. Simplified hydroponic garden at a private school in Bangalore


In Nov 2009, the first demonstration garden located in a homeless shelter in a suburb of Bangalore
was started. The first demonstration garden was a 40m2 garden to provide 4 kg of vegetables a day
to feed homeless children. The shelter was connected to a private elementary school, Sandra
Ricketts School, and was operated by the children at the shelter.

2. Simplified Hydroponics garden at a hospital, Bangalore


The Simplified Hydroponics garden set up at Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital at Whitefield after
nearly three years of testing finally approved the vegetables grown by the hydroponics technique
and feed their patients from their garden.

3. Training Programmes
The Pet Bharo project initiated a training program in Mar 2009-Dec 2010 and trained almost 2500
hydroponic enthusiasts in simplified hydroponics from all over India. Over 100 people were trained
in this initiation phase, and about 65 received certificates for becoming Master Trainers. The training
was all performed by a team of experts from ISH international, and Australia.

4. Commercial hydroponic systems


 HGTIPL has successfully and continues to supply world class, highly nutritious, pesticide free
Spinach to “Easyday”- A Bharti Walmart retail store at Bangalore since mid-2012. The
feedback received from the stores confirms consumers are happy with the quality.
 In Jan 2011 to Sep 2011, HGT built India’s first ever Commercial Hydroponics Greenhouse
(Climate and Environment Controlled) to grow world class strawberries.

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 In Aug 2011- HGT completed India’s second Commercial Hydroponics Lettuce and Herb
System for a client at Coimbatore.
 In Jan 2012- commenced installation of HGTIPL’s first ever International client two one acre
greenhouses each for strawberry and bell peppers (Capsicum).

International Institute for Simplified Hydroponics (IISH)


The International Institute for Simplified Hydroponics (IISH) is a 501-C(3) non-profit corporation and
international non-government organization (NGO) founded in 1995. They are committed to long
term sustainable development projects and their relationships with sponsors, contributors and
collaborators. The IISH works through country affiliates and has worked in 20 countries over the
past 19 years. IISH has trained several thousand families and implemented simplified hydroponics
systems in 20 countries.

Since 1984, projects have been implemented in 20 Latin American and African countries, mostly
funded by the UNDP and the UNFAO. All have been successful in training over 5,000 people in
building and operating their own gardens and have been instrumental in transferring the
technology. The very first project in 1984 was in Jerusalem area outside Bogota Colombia. 150
women were trained and grew vegetables in backyards, roofs and stairways. Within two months
they were making 50 cents a day plus vegetables for the family. Supplies were donated and the
women had a supermarket that would weigh whatever they had and buy it with cash. The UN went
on to support several more projects through the years. This includes a project in Senegal, which
involves about 3000 women, which is ongoing. Some of the recent projects of IISH are
1. Pet Bharo Project, India – 2009-present. Details mentioned in earlier section.
2. Heart of Africa, Project Canaan, Africa - November 2012
Heart for Africa, a non-profit organization working in Swaziland, which also believes in
opportunity. Their run a project called Project Canaan in Swaziland. Project Canaan is a 2,500
acre large-scale land development project being designed by business people to come alongside
Africans and bring expertise, resources and heart together to find a holistic solution to a
complex set of issues. It will provide training and employment, grow large amounts of food to
stimulate the local economy and allow for export while supporting orphans and vulnerable
children on the property and across the nation. There are two sides to this development
project, the first is the farm side and the second is the children side. As part of the farm they
also plan to build a 1 hectare hydroponic greenhouse for their community which will feed a
baby home that cares for malnourished, once-abandoned infants.

For more details on simplified hydroponics projects by IISH and please visit www.carbon.org

2.4 What are existing competing solutions that seek to address the same development
challenges as your innovation?
Potential competition includes contract farming (for vegetable supply to retail chains) and organic
farming. Contract farming is usually in well irrigated districts with back to back arrangements with
medium and large scale farmers. Usually small, marginal farmers and indeed landless are not
beneficiaries. Organic farming is complicated, capital intensive and volume sensitive with huge risks
in market sales and premium. Again it is not small / marginal farmer friendly and irrigation is a key
requirement. The other challenge with organic farming is the time of 3 years required to transition a
piece of land to have it certified as organic. Farmers are unable to withstand the losses incurred

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during this period and will in fact find hydroponics a more practical solution. Simplified hydroponics
– because of its ability to work even with landless (homestead), small spaces, combined with
efficient use of water and nutrients (sustainable farming) are ideal.

To improve our competitive ability and to better serve poorer and marginal farmers, we are
choosing vegetable deficit areas and promoting this technology.

2.5 What makes your innovation distinctive and unique in comparison with the competing
alternatives?
There are six key advantages this technology and approach has:
a) Small holder friendly – The simplified hydroponics can be carried out by landless
(homestead) and even marginal farmers.
b) Scalability – It is scalable – from a small tray (supplementary income) to a large poly house of
1 acre, the simplified hydroponics is completely scalable. While being small holder friendly,
it can also quickly ramp up volumes to meet market requirements, by partnering carefully
with medium and large scale farmers.
c) Ease of implementation - The requirements are minimal, including time (only 1-2 hours a day
of tending) in the case of small and marginal farmers or homesteads. The training takes only
3 days and troubleshooting can happen in field or over phone.
d) Low capital – Investments required are relatively small and in medium to long term
completely fungible.
e) Established practices - Good practices and costing are well established. IIHS, HGT and Swasti
have the technical capacity and the knowledge to implement this; which they will bring to
the benefit of the farmers.
f) Low investment to return time – From the very first cycle, farmers start seeing returns and
results; unlike organic farming which has longer and more uncertain cycles and waiting time
up to 3 years.

2.6. RISKS: How do you perceive the following risks in execution of the project?
1. Market risks (if any) :
 If prices of vegetables falls in the market, business may not be able to recover its profits in
the time estimated
 The assumption is consumers will be willing to pay a premium price for pesticide free food.
In the case of consumers not seeing additional value in this, recovering costs will be
difficult. But this assumption has been made by keeping the organic food market in mind
which has successfully tapped consumers to pay premium prices of up to 30-100 %. We
are only assuming a 10 % premium.
 External factors like rise in fuel prices, prices of seeds or bio-pesticides might lead to higher
cost of production
 Rise in nutrient cost, which is a key ingredient in hydroponics can significantly offset
financial returns. In lieu of this, we propose to have an agreement with the supplier for a
standard price for the two years of pilot project. In the long run, farmers will be trained on
making their own nutrients and we will encourage sale of nutrients through cooperatives
2. Execution risks(if any):
 Some families enrolled into the project may drop out after training. As this is expected in
community processes, we intend to recruit more families and start with a larger number to
accommodate drop outs

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 Some gardens might fail due to external factors like incorrect growing practices, pest
attacks. Local supervisors will monitor each of the pilot gardens closely for any
irregularities and identify pest attacks early. Bio pesticides will be used as a preventive
measure. Even in the advent of an attack, we have chosen short-duration crops which can
help in quick catch up through a new crop without losing too many harvest days
 Weather changes lead to failure of crop – for this purpose crop insurance will be taken for
the farmers to offset the uncertainity.
 Hydroponics systems need closer monitoring and supervision than regular soil-based
farming and failure to monitor can lead to losses. We will select farmers based on their
prior ability to try new technologies. The MFI will be used to identify such farmers.
3. Financial risks:
 Farmers will take a risk by co-financing the gardens and if the crop does not yield the
returns expected, the investment will be at risk. Investments can be significant in the case
of commercial polyhouses. In the worst case scenario, these poly houses can also be used
for cultivation of other crops in regular soil. We will suggest the first few commercial
farmers build hydroponic systems on land which is at least slightly suitable for regular soil
cultivation to offset this risk
4. Regulatory risks
 None
5. Business model risks
 Retail chain buying produce regularly paying a 10 % premium is the key assumption. To
reduce any risk arising out of this assumption, Swasti will build relationship with more than
one retailer and will ensure that emergency pick up of crops through tie ups.

III. IMPACT TO SOCIETY

3.1 Who would be the direct and indirect beneficiaries? Direct beneficiaries in the short
term –how many?
Direct:
a) The landless, small and marginal farmers, who will now have an opportunity to start
cultivation using this technology, despite the lack of fertile land. They will see a rise in their
income, which will also have a direct impact on their entire family.
b) Landless, small and marginal farmer families will get to keep 10 % of their produce for their
own consumption – improving their nutritional status.
c) Medium and large scale farmers – who will secure an opportunity to learn new technology
which promotes sustainable agriculture, while supplying good quality products to markets,
while earning income.
d) Consumers in urban (and rural areas) – who will get to consume vegetables that are not
pesticide and insecticide laden. Though the range and quantity of the vegetables available
might be limited during the initial years, we believe the market for this food will continue to
rise and gain momentum.

We propose to work with 25 farmers per block and pilot in 2 districts through the grant support.
Hence direct beneficiaries would be 200 people (considering 4 people per family). Assuming a
purchase of 500 gms per family per day, 100 consumer families will benefit from the new produce
every day only through the pilot gardens.

But the larger purpose of the model is to increase the number of farmers who will start hydroponics
cultivation. We estimate working with at least 300-350 farmers per district after scale up.

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Indirect: The sector overall will gain from a new way of doing business, using a new technology and
an eco-system that drives it. This will be a new of doing business.

Indirect beneficiaries will be other landless farmers in the same districts outside of our enrolled
group. Farmers can get trained through our training centre, access loans through MFI and SHGs to
start gardens and also sell their produce to retail chains with which linkages would have been made.
Though our direct beneficiaries through this grant are only 200, the project will create the
environment for quick uptake of the model (given its financially sustainable approach). We foresee
indirect benefits to about 1000 landless, marginalized families and 600 medium and large scale
farmers, through scale up within the districts of operation (two) and upto 10,000 landless families in
newer districts.

3.2 How will this innovation make a difference to the poor (BoP) population?

Directly:
 The landless farmers will see a rise in supplementary income.
 We see a greater benefit for women who are constrained in terms of their livelihood options
due to household commitments like young children. These women can now work only a few
hours per day at the garden and still earn some income.
 Since our project will leave behind 10 % of the farmer produce (paid for by this model) and
also include a nutrition education component supported with the means to increase
vegetable consumption, we expect the families to change eating behaviours slowly. This will
have long-lasting impact on the health of children and women leading to better health of the
entire family.

Indirectly:
 Farmers will have access to retail chains. This linkage can be explored to supply other
products from the district like poultry and dairy products and further increase income.
 Once this technology has been accepted, this model of introducing a technology can be used
to explore other technologies for rural development.

3.3 What socio-economic changes it can bring to the society?


 Provide alternate livelihood options for men and women who are restricted in mobility due
to small children and household responsibilities, giving them the flexibility to decide the size
of the garden
 Increase in income of farmers who do not have fertile land or limited water or both
 Financial empowerment of women who take up this kind of farming leading to more control
over household resources and better decision-making power
 Increased awareness among mothers on nutrition leading to better mother and child care,
(especially during pregnancy and early childhood)
 Access to safer food for urban consumers, leading to greater demand and more pesticide-
free food in the market

3.4 What potential/actual threat to the environment do you foresee while implementing
the project? What steps you have taken/intend to take to mitigate that?
We do not see any threat to environment through this technology. In fact it uses of less water than
regular soil based farming, uses no chemical pesticides and promotes reusing of locally available
material for use as beds. All these factors contribute to better conservation of environment.

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Although the risk is low, there is a small chance of consumption of concentrated nutrients being
stored by families by their children. This will be addressed in two ways – one – packaging / storage
will be in a way children cannot open and as part of the training the issue will be addressed for
parents to come up with ways to ensure no accidental usage by children. In addition contra-
indications and immediate steps to be taken will also be made available as part of training.

IV. FINANCIAL DETAILS


4.1 Project Activities, expected outcome against each Activity and Outcome indicator
Activity Expected Outcome Outcome indicator
1. Consultations and field Selection of blocks and farmers 40 landless and marginal, 10
visits to select blocks for medium/large farmers have
pilot signed up to the Project
2. Set up of training centre Effective training centre with Number of master trainers
demo garden at each district developed who meet minimum
criteria
3. Communication campaign Farmers understand the benefits Same as indicator for 1.
to promote simplified and opt into the pilot
hydroponics to MFI
members
4. Training of farmers ? Trained farmers Knowledge and skills of farmers
at the end of training to start
their gardens is as per
minimum standards prescribed
for independent operation.
5. Construction of gardens Home stead and mid-sized 40 gardens built in time within
(except commercial gardens constructed the estimated budget
polyhouses which are
conditional to investment
by the farmer)
6. Baseline survey of Information on current status of 50 families surveyed and
enrolled farmer families farmer and family information analysed and
available for comparison in end
line
7. Growing and supervision Good quality produce with less 50 kgs of vegatables sold @ 10
of gardens loss due to incorrect % premium to prevailing
implementation or pests market rates
8. Awareness sessions to More aware families on need to % households reporting
enrolled families on focus on nutrition and inclusion improved nutrition indicators in
nutrition of vegetables in diets their family (mid arm
circumference for children and
Weight for adults)
9. Testing supply to urban Supply of produce from demo Same as 7
retail store sites and sale at retail stores

10. Selling vegetables to retail Produce sold to retailer Same as 7


chains on test basis
11. Endline survey Information gathered on farmer Endline survey indicates
and family income and diet changes in:
pattern after pilot  Income by farmer type

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 Nutrition
 Adoption (less drop outs)
 Sales in premium
12. Loan product design with A loan produce designed for Number of farmers who access
MFI and marketing of farmers to start home stead the loan product from the MFI
product to MFI members gardens to start gardens on their own,
number of farmers who access
bank loans to start mid-sized
gardens/commercial
polyhouses
13. Scale up of project – Capacity building of farmers who Number of home stead and
setting up gardens and have taken loan, helping them mid-sized gardens set up,
production on larger scale set up gardens and start quantity of crop being
production produced every month
14. Aggregating and selling Formal agreement with urban Sales in retail chains show an
produce to retail chains retailer on purchase of produce increasing demand, Month on
on larger volumes from farmers - including month, for 6 consecutive
consensus on price and logistics months
of supply
Sale of large volumes of
hydroponic produce and
increase in returns to farmers

4.2 What is the total cost of the project? (detailed break up fixed and working)
Rs.97,45,880 (includes cost large polyhouses proposed, which will be funded through bank
loans)

Fixed cost (includes human resources) – Rs.72,05,700

Working cost – Rs.25,40,180

4.3 What percentage of the total cost that you seek from MA?
We seek 50% of the total cost from MA, primarily to enable landless farmers to participate in the
pilot.

The grant amount sought is Rs.48,65,880 for a period of 2 years of operations (Rs.37,45,700
fixed cost and Rs.11,20,180 working cost)

4.4 Have you been supported by VCs/ PE firms/Angel Investors/private investors at any
stage of your current enterprise/organization? Please elaborate.

No

4.5 Have you ever received or expect to receive funding for this project from any
alternative sources? (if yes, kindly let us know the details below)
No

4.6 Do you (the organisation?) have any existing financial liability that is more than Rs
3,00,000 or has to be repaid within the next 2 years?
No

V. PROJECT EXECUTION

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5.1 Project execution table of activity & timeline

Sl.No. Activity Date/Month/Quarter


1 Consultations and field visits to select blocks for pilot 1st April - 30th April
Q1
2 Set up of training centre 1st May- 30th June
Q1
3 Communication campaign to promote simplified 1st June-30th June
hydroponics to MFI members Q2
4 Group formation to aggregate farmers 1st July-30th July
Q2
5 Training of farmers 1st Aug-30th Aug
Q2
6 Construction of gardens (except commercial polyhouses 15th Aug-30th Sep
which are conditional to investment by the farmer) Q2
7 Baseline survey of enrolled farmer families 1st Aug-30th Aug
Q2
8 Growing and supervision of gardens 1st Oct onwards
Q3
9 Awareness sessions to enrolled families on nutrition 1st Nov - 15th Dec
Q3
10 Testing supply to urban retail store 1st Aug-31st Sep
Q2
11 Endline survey 1st Dec 2014
Q3, Year 2
12 Loan product design with MFI and marketing of product to 1st April-30th May 2014
MFI members Q1, Year 2
13 Scale up of project – setting up gardens and production on 1st June onwards
larger scale Q1, Year 2
14 Aggregating and selling produce to retail chains on larger 30th July onwards
volumes Q2, Year 2

5.2 Project Execution Team

Vrutti - Raghu, Pramel, CP, Ravi and Shruti

HGT – CV, Sangeeta

IISH – Peggy Bradley

5.3 Cv of [Please include a CV of maximum 1 page in your supporting documents for the
lead person(s) implementing the project]
Adding CVs of team members listed above

5.4 Project Partners (internal – eg consultants) and external (collaborations with other
agencies/organisations) and purpose of each.

Swasti Health Resource Lead partner – Strategy, Eco-system building, Management support,
Centre Knowledge management and overall Co-ordination and implementation
leadership
Initiatives for Mobilisation, Financing and production lead: Mobilising farmers through

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Development its NGO network, providing credit through its MFI arm, Conduct trainings
Foundation (IDF) for farmers, ensuring production and aggregation, protection of farmer
interest
International Institute Technology and knowledge lead: Leadership in Product development,
of Simplified Process controls and knowledge transfer (from other experiments world
Hydroponics (IISH), wide) and in India.
USA
Hydroponic Technical support on simplified and commercial hydroponics setting up
Greenhouse and management of the demo / training sites, technical support to
Technologies India farmers and IDF
Private
Limited(HGTIPL),
Bangalore
Retail Partner (to be Market Lead: Purchase of produce @ 10 % higher than market value,
identified) 7 Selling in retail spaces (specifically branded as ‘Swasti hydroponic
produce’, Know how on post-harvest, storage and transport (to reduce
losses)
Vrutti – A livelihood Agriculture and livelihood experts – Providing strategic and technical
resource centre support on agriculture related issues and loan product design support

VI. OTHER INFORMATION


6.1 Name of Organisation
Swasti Health Resource Centre

6.2 Constitution- Proprietary/ Partnership/ Private Ltd/ Ltd. Co/ Cooperative Society/ Trust/
Others
Society

6.3 Full Name of the Proprietor/ Partners/ Directors along with address and contact details
of each
Shiv Kumar, CEO, Swasti Health Resource Centre

# 19,1st Main,1st Cross, Ashwathnagar, RMV 2nd Stage, Bangalore-560094

Ph : 080-23419616, 2341 7714

Email: shiv@swasti.org

6.4 Names of Associate Concerns of each Partner/ Director and of the Proprietor as well
as the extent of their interest/investment in the Associate Concerns
Vrutti Livelihood Resource Centre, provides technical support to the project. Vrutti is a sister
concern of Swasti Health Resource Centre working in the area of livelihoods and rural
development.

6.5 Relationship of any Proprietor/Partner/Director with any officials of USAID/


Technology Development Board/ FICCI [this will not disqualify you for the financial
assistance sought]
None

6.6 Information of Individual / Organisation

7
Initial interest has been shown by both METRO and Reliance Fresh

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Swasti Health Resource Centre

# 19,1st Main,1st Cross, Ashwathnagar, RMV 2nd Stage, Bangalore-560094

Ph : 080-23419616, 2341 7714

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