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Two start-ups in aquaponics and hydroponics farming


The RuralIDEA startup is looking for help in form of investment, professional (including interns) helps on branding, marketing, value chain, product development, IoT, mobile application etc.

Eat healthy, eat fresh

It is in Mumbai’s suburb that we met Vijay Yelmalle. He grew up in his parents farm. Older he graduated as a chemical engineer and worked in Singapore for 14 years. During this time, he studied sustainable agriculture by himself and started experimenting on Aquaponics and Hydroponics. He decided to document a website and was later contacted by people interested in high tech farming. Back in Mumbai, he started training at his own place one or two times a month. Trainings for urbans, who wants to give urban farming a try still is his main source of income. He also sells services and information to start small units at home.

Urban Farming

To keep on experimenting, he bought 15 acres land near Mumbai and launched two start-ups that are at initial stages. For now, the yields aren’t sufficient to scale up but are enough to feed some buildings and offices. For Vijay, it only is a matter of time until they start growing and selling in Mumbai through his startup. To grow their products, they are aiming at three entry points of Mumbai.

He produces everything through new farming technologies like Hydroponics and Aquaponics.

Rural IDEA (Low cost smart Aquaponics farms for small farmers)

Using the unique combination of fishes and plants, the resulting self-sustaining micro-ecosystem only needs fish feed to work. Fish excreta is used as a natural source of fertilizers that plant needs to grow. These Aquaponics farms of 300 square meter can produce up to 2 tons of fish and 5 tons of leafy vegetables per year. Selling both vegetables and fishes diversifies the source of income and makes the system financially stable. Indeed, fish is a pretty stable market in India. On the contrary, vegetable prices are pretty unstable. The startup buys back the vegetables from the farmers and market them live (with roots) in Mumbai. These vegetables are of very high quality as Aquaponics farms are intolerant to pesticides and insecticides. Their customer pay premium prices for the vegetables. The fish from the farms are sold to local rural population where the demand of live fish is high. Rural IDEA supports the farms with all technical assistance and farm supplies like fish feed and seeds of spinach, amaranth, beetroot, radish and mustard.

Moreover, the startup is supported by the Indian Government through the ICAR (Indian Council of Agriculture Research, a premium agriculture institute in India) Rural IDEA is one of the very few startups selected from hundreds of entries from all over India. ICAR is incubating the startup and also provides a world class technical support.

Urban VIBE

Using hydroponics, they are able to grow vegetables without soil, minimal space by vertical farming techniques and with a minimal water consumption. This hydroponics urban farms are growing vegetables on the available area of rooftops in urban areas. They are targeting premium buyers and sell them at a higher price than traditionally grown vegetables.

Running a hydroponic farm in rural India is difficult, farmers need government subsidies because of high capital investment and low selling prices. In India, the organic label is weak and has no real trustworthy certification yet. The hyperlocal farm setups on rooftops of city houses uses all inputs, except the nutrients that are organically certified. That means they don’t use chemical pesticides and insecticides.

The importance of eating fresh

Vijay thinks it’s primordial for the citizens to have access to fresh and high quality nutritious food. There should be a balance between the farmers making a living and the urbanites eating healthy food. According to him, the vegetables you can find in Mumbai lack nutrients due to longer time from farm to fork and are contaminated with harmful components like heavy metals due to waste water usage and pesticide usage.

Let’s take the example of spinach. If it has been well grown, this leafy vegetable is rich in antioxidants and vitamins and cure most of the lifestyle diseases. But as soon as you harvest it, it loses most of its nutriennts within 24 hours, so it has to be consumed very fresh to benefit the consumer. On the other hand, if the growing conditions were not adequate, either spoiled water or soil rich in heavy metal, the spinach incorporates the pollutants and the consumer is more harmed than benefited by these food.

To be continued

Vijay is currently working on Rural IDEA startup while Urban VIBE is kept on back burner. Aquaponics uses high technology to manage the different components of the water such as ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. It’s difficult to teach farmers to switch from a classic model to a more high-tech one. He has proven that the RuralIDEA model with smart technologies works with little skillset in his farm. But multiplying the farms for other farmers and making them run successfully is the next challenge. For that he is also developing an IoT solution.

Before the end of 2019, he wishes to go from 2 farms to 20 and start to market at this point.

With his initiative, Vijay wishes to bring a healthy change to the citizens of Mumbai. Solving problems of available room to grow vegetables and also improve the nutritive quality of vegetables, setting new healthy habits on the long term.




Vijay Yelmalle : +91 8767 01 3131