With the aim of producing enough to feed large populations, modern agriculture often relies on harmful chemicals. As a result, many people have been exploring and adopting ways to grow and consume chemical free or organic food. As part of this effort, a Mumbai-based startup called Altifarm is now trying to bring small portable farms to people's houses.
Altifarm sells vertical structures comprising special trays that people can fill with soil and grow herbs and vegetables in for their daily use. The idea is to be able to grow and consume fresh produce even in the absence of a vegetable garden, which a rarity for all but a few city dwellers.
Arun Raj, who set up Altifarm, began gardening in 2014 just before he was about to become a father. "I realized that there were hardly any specialised garden shops and brands," he told HuffPost India. "So I started to work on the product."
Raj worked on the design extensively, reworking and improving it until he was satisfied. After adding new components and restructuring the trays in 2016, Altifarm made its first sale, shipping 80 units to Europe.
One of the unique things about the vertical garden is that the on-the-go urban gardeners using it don't need to water the produce every day. The trays come with a watering spout and a water level indicator. Water can be filled once a week and the rest is taken care of by a pressure mechanism that relies on holes in the platform situated in the tray.
The mini farm is available with add-ons. There is the wheel add-on that makes the platform portable. and there is the light-pack which eliminates the need for constant sunlight.
"We have specially designed these lights after studying plants and its nature," Raj said. "Our lights primarily consist of white, blue and red colours [of the spectrum]. Plant leaves only perform photosynthesis at certain wavelengths of light and we have taken care of that."
A green house add-on provides extra heat to plants in colder environments.
Altifarm doesn't provide any farming supplies. Nor does it provide any soil or seeds to grow plants. The company does provide tips and tricks on its blogsite from gardening experts.
"We want to be a platform for farming," Raj said. "We are giving you the trays, structure, and the technology to grow the produce in a limited space."
An ongoing challenge is logistics as the vertical farm weighs 29 kilos.
Raj said that Altifarm is currently running an IndieGoGo campaign selling the product at a very attractive price of $199. Thier trays are available in four colours.