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Less Water, More Yield: Earthshot Prize Winning ‘Greenhouse-In-A-Box’ Is Helping Smallholder Farmers Mitigate The Effects Of Climate Change

Kheyti’s greenhouse-in-a-box helps farmers mitigate the effects of climate change, and increase their incomes while making farming more sustainable and climate resilient

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Less Water, More Yield Earthshot Prize Winning ‘Greenhouse-In-A-Box’ Is Helping Smallholder Farmers Mitigate The Effects Of Climate Change
A greenhouse is a house for plants, protecting them from extreme weather events

New Delhi: 38-year-old Arjun Palsaniya, from Israwala village in Rajasthan’s Jaipur, had a good agriculture season in 2023. He earned Rs. 75,000 by selling cucumbers grown on a patch of land – one-sixteenth of an acre. He credits the optimum harvest to a transparent white structure called a greenhouse that protected his crop from infections and extreme weather – heat, rain and hailstorms. Mr Palsaniya, who has been practising farming for the past 15 years, said,

Had I grown cucumber the traditional way, in open farmland, I would have earned barely Rs. 10,000 as the cucumber vine would have died in a month. Whereas, in a greenhouse, the crop lasted for three months, resulting in increased yield.

Less Water, More Yield Earthshot Prize Winning ‘Greenhouse-In-A-Box’ Is Helping Smallholder Farmers Mitigate The Effects Of Climate Change

English Cucumber crop thriving inside Kheyti’s greenhouse in Rajasthan

This structure has been established by a start-up and 2022 Earthshot Prize winner, Kheyti. When asked what Kheyti’s Greenhouse is, Kaushik Kappagantulu, Co-Founder and CEO of Kheyti humbly explained,

In the same way that human beings have houses to protect themselves, plants too need one, especially in a world that is getting worse and worse in terms of climate change. A greenhouse is a house for plants. It helps farmers mitigate the effects of climate change, and increase their incomes while making farming more sustainable.

Also Read: Agriculture Grapples With Climate Change; Erratic Weather Patterns Through 2023 Affect Production

The seed of the idea was sown over a decade ago when Kaushik was working for an impact enterprise and visiting villages across India, helping school dropouts get access to livelihoods and jobs. He recalled,

Most of the kids we were trying to help belonged to farming families. Since agriculture was not working, they were moving into other industries, right? That’s where the initial impetus came in that we should help farmers increase their incomes. And, that’s when I met my co-founders who were going through similar journeys.

In December 2015, the team launched Kheyti intending to invest six months into understanding the problems of farmers and eventually, improving their income. After interacting with thousands of farmers and spending time in the fields, they realised the common problem – the fate of agriculture lay in the hands of weather, despite the hard work one puts in. That’s when Kheyti decided to make agriculture climate resilient for smallholder farmers.

Less Water, More Yield Earthshot Prize Winning ‘Greenhouse-In-A-Box’ Is Helping Smallholder Farmers Mitigate The Effects Of Climate Change

Kheyti greenhouse set up in a farm in Rajasthan

Kaushik explained,

There are a host of technologies and solutions, especially in developed countries for farmers to adapt to climate change and make their farming more sustainable. But, those solutions aren’t suitable for Indian small and marginal farmers, who own less than five acres of land and make up 85 percent of the farm force in the country. Because these solutions are costly and lack training on how to use the technology.

One of the solutions that excited the team was a greenhouse. They set out to make a compact and affordable version of a greenhouse for Indian smallholder farmers. After a year of research and development, the first version of Kheyti’s greenhouse was rolled out in January 2017. At Rs. 3 lakh, the technology was valued 25 per cent cheaper than the regular greenhouses, but still expensive.

Our first greenhouse was co-designed with a bunch of farmers. They became the first adopters since they gave inputs on what they wanted in a greenhouse. By the eighth version, over 500 farmers were part of the design process and we brought down the cost to Rs. 65,000 from Rs. 3 lakh, Kaushik answered.

Also Read: World Famous Assam Tea Is Losing Its Flavour And Yield To Climate Change

Arjun Palsaniya was the first in his village to install a greenhouse-in-a-box on his land in July 2022. Sharing his experience, he said,

The crops grown inside the greenhouse require less water and give high yield. Since they aren’t exposed to direct harsh sunlight, crops don’t dry up. Similarly, they are protected from direct hailstorm. The crop does get drenched; the water seeps in through the roof of the structure but it doesn’t damage the crop.

The greenhouse is primarily suitable for horticulture – fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamental trees. It is recommended to grow self-pollinated and parthenocarpic (the development of fruit without fertilization) varieties of crops. Explaining the agronomy, Ujwal Ranjan, Farmer Service Associate at Kheyti, based in Ranchi said,

Since it’s a box and no butterfly, housefly or honey bee can go inside, pollination is affected. Therefore, we suggest growing crops that are self-pollinated or do not require pollination meaning female flowers directly bear fruits. We suggest growing tomato, capsicum, bottle brinjal and French beans, among others.

The box has a drip irrigation system, resulting in less water requirement.

Less Water, More Yield Earthshot Prize Winning ‘Greenhouse-In-A-Box’ Is Helping Smallholder Farmers Mitigate The Effects Of Climate Change

Capsicum crop planted inside a greenhouse in Odisha

Also Read: Himachal Pradesh’s Apples Face The Brunt Of Climate Change

Looking at the increase in the harvest that Mr Palsaniya witnessed, fellow farmers in his village too adopted Kheyti’s greenhouse. Farmers like Arjun have become the brand ambassadors of Kheyti, promoting the solution through word of mouth and demonstration.

Various farmers, producer organisations and non-governmental organisations, who have established trust in the community also educate farmers about the low-cost, modular, climate resilient solution.

The structure is modular in the sense that if a farmer wants to extend the size of the greenhouse, another set can be attached to the existing one. This way, eight greenhouses can be combined, covering half an acre of land.

About 20 per cent of the farmers have purchased a second greenhouse and around 10 percent have opted for a third and fourth greenhouse. The greenhouse is bundled with training inputs and a support system. Our farmer service associates are there to guide farmers through the journey of adapting to the technology, said Kaushik.

Currently, Kheyti caters to 3,200 farmers, across seven states, with a special focus on Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

We are adding about 200 farmers every month and looking to scale up significantly over the next 18 to 24 months. By 2032, we aim to reach a million farmers. Instead of expanding to more states, we plan to go deeper within. Importantly, we aren’t asking farmers to stop growing crops on their land. We are providing them a diverse and steady source of income that can withstand extreme weather events.

Going forward, Kheyti, a climate resilient agriculture organisation aims to introduce more such solutions, focused on improving farmers’ income. With Kheyti Greenhouse, smallholder farmers are taking the reins in their hands, to fight climate change.

Also Read: What Is Climate Smart Agriculture: Is This The Key To Ensure Food Security Amid Climate Change?

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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