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Case Study

The “Cool” Farms – Urban Portable Farming Systems

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Living Greens Organics

Agriculture is a leading cause of climate change and the water crisis. Over 40% of fruit and vegetables are spoiled due to the long supply chains and lack of cold storage in India – thus, the energy and water used for fertilisers, growing these crops, harvesting and transporting them are wasted, leading to a huge carbon footprint.

Meanwhile, people end up eating ‘fresh produce that was harvested several days ago and may have low nutritional value, with chemicals used to ripen it or keep it fresher looking – in short, fruit and vegetables can have adverse health impacts too. All of this also raises prices, so most Indians cannot afford a healthy range of vegetables and fruit. All in all, Indian agriculture is creating a climate and health crisis.

Portable Farming Systems 

Living Greens focuses on converting rooftops and unused land in towns and cities into urban farms. Our plug-and-play easy-to-install Portable Farming System can be assembled by the customer themselves. It uses an extremely lightweight, highly porous and nutrient-rich soilless organic medium and a precision drip irrigation system, and unlike hydroponics, it can grow over 60 types of fruit and veg at an average cost of Rs 50–60 per kilo, which is well below market rates!

Just 300 square feet can grow enough for a family of five. Living Greens also provides 100% organic growth kits with fertilisers and pest control tonics, and 24×7 online and offline support for any kind of growth or pest issues.

Impact of the Project (Intersectional Effects)

Our systems can produce 4–5 times the amount of vegetables and fruit per square foot over traditional farming and use 50–80% less water. They have zero transport costs and emissions and near zero wastage, meaning people can eat truly fresh, healthy and organic food with a fraction of the carbon footprint of traditional agriculture.

Zero food miles  – Produce fresh organic vegetables at home or on larger farms in the heart of the city, and distribute them to urban clients on an e-cycle or bicycle, without needing a cold chain.

Cooling urban heat islands – Rooftop farms are a natural green cover for barren and exposed city rooftops, and they not only reduce the heat signature of each building but also the urban heat island effect of the whole city. Building farms above roads, parking lots, railway lines and other such areas can dramatically improve the urban microclimate, and make public spaces more usable for walking, cycling, street vending and other activities.

Skill development and employment – Larger urban farms as described above can create direct jobs for youth and women, as well as jobs in delivery and technical farm management. Cities can encourage cooperative farming by ‘Mahila Maalis’ (women gardeners) and supply the food for school midday meals, community kitchens and other food programs for the poor.

Quality of living  – Green spaces improve mental health by reducing stress and anxiety. Urban farms will also reduce air and noise pollution, and the cost of vegetables and fruits, insulating the poor from food inflation and other market dislocations. Thus, multiple intersectional areas are addressed.

Successful projects

Bihar State Government’s Financial Subsidy for Rooftop Gardening

The Department of Horticulture of the Bihar Government offered a subsidy of Rs 25,000 to any family or institution that wanted to set up a rooftop farm in the 4 Smart Cities of the state. Living Greens was the largest empanelled vendor and installed systems for nearly 200 households. We also trained 10 unemployed youth and 2 poor women (from an NGO) to maintain these roof farms. As the Covid period restricted access to households, and as this was being done for the first time, the outcomes were not as strong as expected. The government has just improved and expanded the program for the next 2 years.

Rooftop farms on factories

We created 2 large rooftop farms on 2 diamond factories in Surat, Gujarat. These rooftop farms are producing fresh organic vegetables at Rs 40 per kg for the factory canteen, and cooling the factory building by 5–6 degrees, thus significantly reducing air conditioning costs and emissions.

Rooftop farms in hospitals and schools

We installed 80 Portable Farming Systems at the Medanta Medicity Gurgaon, one of the largest hospitals in India. The vegetables grown are used in the hospital canteen, with additional benefits like cooling. Under our School Farming initiative, we have converted the rooftops of 2 large schools in Bhopal and Jalandhar into organic farms. Two more are under process in Mumbai in partnership with WRI. Besides educating students about organic farming, blue-collar staff are given training in organic farming.

Scalability

There is immense potential to convert the rooftops of homes, institutions and government buildings into lush organic farms, and to build larger urban farms in public spaces, above or below roads, flyovers, metro lines, railways, water bodies, dirty land, drains etc. Because our system is self-contained and isolated from the land itself, polluted lands will not affect the food quality.

For high urban impact, such projects need support from city and state governments such as Singapore, France, the United States, Brazil and elsewhere. More research is needed to optimise the equipment and growth techniques for different climatic regions in India, and training programs are needed for operational and technical staff.

Living Greens is expanding by approaching large buildings and urban landlords, setting up a national dealer network, and approaching governments to invest in the sector.

‘Productive’ green and blue infrastructure can address multiple problems in India: such as urban climate change, heat islands and pollution, making cities more livable and sustainable, reducing food waste and emissions in the agriculture value chain, and of course, providing equitable access to healthy and nutritious food.


 
By: Living Greens Organics PVT. LTD

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

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