Tahir Rana is a nuclear physicist who gave up a job in Canada to set up a vegetable farm in Faisalabad. He is part of a growing number of people worldwide who have been drawn in by the extraordinary profits in hydroponic vegetable farming.
Rana has set a up a small company just outside Faisalabad called Fareed Farmhouse, where he produces three varieties of tomato (cherry tomato, strawberry tomato, beef tomato), cucumber and capsicum. His production capacity is significantly above the norm.
“Through this technique, farmers can get between 450 and 550 tons of vegetables per acre, compared to the average yield of 15 tons per acre using traditional farming,” said Rana Zahid, the project director at Fareed Farmhouse.
Rana uses coconut waste imported from Sri Lanka as the solid medium in which he grows his plants. The vegetable plants are then irrigated through a water injection system. Fareed Farm uses reverse osmosis water purification systems to ensure good water quality.
Each plant requires up to two litres of water per day, which needs to be slightly acidic, with a pH of 5.8, according to Zahid.
The vegetable produced on the farm attract high prices. Customers include large retailers and wholesale chains as well as hotels and restaurants that have historically imported their produce from the European markets.
Rana sells the tomatoes for about Rs225 $ 2.50 US approx) per kilogram, compared to the cost of importing them from the Netherlands, which can run as high as Rs800 per kilogram. The seeds for the tomatoes are Canadian imports and most the other materiels required for the operatin are also imports – from China and Sri Lanka for the most part. The imports are costly, but the returns allow for this.
“Our production method allows us to not use any kind of pesticides,” said Rana Arshad, a quality control officer at Fareed farmhouse.
Still, this type of growing is not cheap – the cost is a barrier to growing hydroponically in much of the world. Hydroponic farming requires an investment of up to Rs1.5 million per acre, though it can yield net profits of up to Rs3 million per acre annually if there is enough capital to set it up initially.
Publication date: 3/23/2012
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