An action plan to ensure food security in Kashmir

Why are our agri-scientists not coming forward, and guiding people on vertical farming?
An action plan to ensure food security in Kashmir
Image for representational purpose only.Wikimedia/ ifarm.fi

The majority of the farmers in Jammu and Kashmir are officially recognized as marginal farmers because of very small land holdings. The agricultural landholdings in J&K was estimated at 0.55 hectares during the agriculture census 2015-16, but unofficially this is much smaller (around 0.45 hectares ). In Kashmir valley, the size is even smaller. During the 2010-2011 agriculture census, the average size of operational land holdings in India was 1.15 hectares. This figure was lower, at 0.62 hectares in Jammu and Kashmir. Districts in Kashmir valley had even lower landholding sizes than the state as a whole. Kulgam 0.39 hectares Anantnag 0.39 , Shopian 0.56, Pulwama 0.48, Srinagar 0.31, Budgam 0.43, Baramulla 0.51, Ganderbal 0.37, Kupwara 0.51, Bandipora 0.48. These figures again came down during the 2015-16 census. I have written in detail about it in past.

In Kashmir valley, where most farmers own less than an acre of land, any Government policy related to land acquisition, especially for “development projects”, needs to take into account the fragile mountainous environment and climatic conditions as well. At a time when the agricultural land is shrinking day by day and population on rise , what is the future of agriculture in Jammu & Kashmir especially the Kashmir valley ?

World population by 2040

The world's overall population is expected to increase by another 2 billion by 2040. Feeding such a large population will be the most challenging task ? Scientific studies show earth has lost one- fourth of its arable lands over the last

50 years only? India has a huge population. Urbanization and industrialization is shrinking its agricultural land. The Vertical farming is the solution to these challenges. This type of farming is an innovative way of maintaining our agricultural practices. In India, vertical farming is mostly polyhouse-based farming. Poly-house farming is a protected way that gives higher productivity and yield of vegetables and fruits across India. Increasing food demand due to a growing population along with ever decreasing arable lands poses one of the greatest challenges for us. Many believe that vertical farming can be the answer to this challenge. It is believed that vertical farming is the future of agriculture. For a place like Kashmir it is indeed the solution to ensure food security in future

What Is Vertical Farming ?

Vertical farming is the practice of producing food on vertically inclined surfaces. Instead of farming vegetables and other foods on a single level, such as in a field or a greenhouse, this method produces foods in vertically stacked layers commonly integrated into other structures like a skyscraper, shipping container or repurposed warehouse. Using Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technology. This modern idea uses indoor farming techniques. The artificial control of temperature, light, humidity, and gases makes producing foods and medicine indoor possible. In many ways, vertical farming is similar to greenhouses where metal reflectors and artificial lighting augment natural sunlight. The primary goal of vertical farming is maximizing crops output in a limited space.

Firstly, the primary goal of vertical farming is producing more foods per square meter. To accomplish this goal, crops are cultivated in stacked layers in a tower life structure. Secondly, a perfect combination of natural and artificial lights is used to maintain the perfect light level in the room. Technologies such as rotating beds are used to improve lighting efficiency. Thirdly, instead of soil, aeroponic, aquaponic or hydroponic growing mediums are used. Peat moss or coconut husks and similar non-soil mediums are very common in vertical farming. Finally, the vertical farming method uses various sustainability features to offset the energy cost of farming. In fact, vertical farming uses 95% less water.

Vertical farming in J&K

As discussed above the agricultural land holding in Jammu & Kashmir is very less. The government is in the process of acquiring more and more agricultural land for highways and transmission lines. More than than 800 acres of highly fertile agriculture land is being acquired for the Srinagar Ring Semi Road project. Budgam alone is loosing more than 600 acres of vegetable, paddy and orchard land (4800 kanals). Right to Fair compensation act which is applicable in J&K post article 370 abrogation is not applied as the 2017 notification has become null and void due to efflux of time. Dozens of villages in Pulwama, Budgam, Srinagar and Ganderbal are affected by the land acquisition process for this project. We already lost a lot of agricultural land during construction of Qazigund – Baramulla railway line. Due to urbanization a lot of paddy fields were converted into housing colonies around Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts. Shopping malls, hospitals, schools have come up on agricultural land. Have we ever thought about our future generation ? Will people in Kashmir valley be able to grow vegetables or paddy in 2050 ? No not at all. What is the solution? Why are our agri –scientists and researchers not coming forward and guiding people on vertical farming?

Advantages of Vertical farming

Vertical farming has a lot of advantages. However, there are some challenges as well. The advantages are listed below :

  • Preparation for the Future:
    In the next 30 to 35 years around 70 % of the world population is expected to live in urban areas, and the population growth will demand more food. The efficient use of vertical farming may perhaps play a significant role in facing such challenges.

  • Year-Round Crop Production:

The vertical farming ensures to produce more crops from the same square footage of growing area. In fact, 1 acre (8 kanals) of an indoor area offers equivalent production to at least 4-6 acres of outdoor capacity. According to an estimate, a 30-story building with a base area of 5 acres can potentially produce an equivalent of 2,400 acres of conventional horizontal farming. Additionally, year-round crop production is possible in a controlled indoor environment which is completely controlled by vertical farming technologies. This is indeed a very useful technique for a place like Kashmir in view of shrinking farm lands and harsh winter months. Vertical farming allows us to produce crops with 70% to 95% less water than required for normal cultivation.

  • Production of Organic Crops:

As crops are produced in a well-controlled indoor environment without the use of chemical pesticides, vertical farming allows us to grow pesticide-free and organic crops. Indoor vertical farming can significantly lessen the occupational hazards associated with traditional farming. Farmers are not exposed to hazards related to heavy farming equipment, diseases like malaria, poisonous chemicals and so on. As it does not disturb animals and trees inland areas, it is good for biodiversity as well

Challenges

  • Difficulties with Pollination

Vertical farming takes place in a controlled environment without the presence of insects. As such, the pollination process needs to be done manually, which will be labor intensive and costly.

  • Labor Costs

As high as energy costs are in vertical farming, labour costs can be even higher due to their concentration in urban centers where wages are higher, as well as the need for more skilled labor. Automation in vertical farms, however, may lead to the need for fewer workers. Manual pollination may become one of the more labor-intensive functions in vertical farms.

Conclusion

The constant shrinking of agriculture land is a big challenge at global level as discussed above. For a place like Kashmir valley the shrinking of agricultural land due to urbanization and population growth will lead to food crises in future. Vertical farming is the only hope now and our agriculture scientists, universities and research institutions need to shift their focus on vertical farming....

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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