Cultivating the plants can be a stress-releaser, and now you can have fresh vegetables grown in your backyard. At a time when everyone is trying to increase more control over the food they eat and the resources they use, Shijin V S wondered why we couldn’t bring the creative process into our own houses. Initiated by a Kerala teacher-student duo, Shijin V S and Amal Mathew, both electrical engineers, Ela Sustainable Solutions help urban farmers prep hydroponic farming systems and mini-poly houses in areas as small as 100 sqft helping the urban families grow vegetables for daily use in their backyard, rooftop or even inside the house by installing poly home and hydroponic system.
From tomato, cabbage, capsicum, cucumber, beans, tapioca, cauliflower, carrot, radish, brinjal, ladies finger to leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, and coriander, one can grow all their veggies using these technologies. Ela is struggling to enforce Science and Technology in day to day life for the advancement of society.
“Being from Kerala, both Amal and I realised a gap in the market where most of the produce, be it vegetables or fruits, are doused in chemicals and pesticides. This results in several health issues. We wanted urban farmers to grow food safely and organically and understood that the biggest challenge for many of them was space and resources. So we had to develop a technique that would tackle these issues too,” says Shijin.
They have made it Possible for People to Gift a Garden to your Loved Ones
Ela Solutions has brought up a novel concept of gifting package garden units on special occasions. According to Amal Mathew, the idea has commenced, and the startup is getting many questions regarding the idea. Ela proposes a hydroponic unit of 25 plants for Rs 10,000 for people who are interested in farming. All leafy plants can be cultivated inside the house with the hydroponic units, which helps in providing artificial light to the plants using spectrum grow lights. Ela also provides the seedlings and NPK solution for the unit. There is no necessity to water the plants as the unit comprises a reservoir and motor pump that irrigates the plants automatically.
Ela Solutions has inaugurated Smart Garden, a contemporary and modern concept of growing vegetables at home by providing water, light and nutrients automatically. The unit comprises both polyhouse farming and hydroponic farming. The polyhouse with 40 to 120 grow bags will have a fertigation unit that ensures regular supply of nutrients to the plants, timer-controlled irrigation system and temperature sensor with the cooling system. The fan of the course will on its own will start working once the temperature exceeds 30 degree Celsius.
A 100-sq ftpolyhouse with 40 plants can be installed at the expense of Rs 36,000. While the cost for setting up a 200-sqft polyhouse is around Rs 55,000, a 300-sq ftpolyhouse with 120 plants costs Rs 76,000. It was around this time that they also realised that good quality soil is tough to find. They started setting up hydroponic units that would eradicate the use of soil to grow a range of vegetables apart from root-based ones. They also scrutinised several methods like the dutch bucket hydroponic technique and nutrients transfer technique for these units.
Ela has arranged 42 farms across Kochi so far. With a majority of home-based units, they have also set up three commercial farms. This year, they are planning to create a mobile application where people can get the products delivered to their doorstep directly from the farm. The team promises its customer base that they can foresee returns from their own farm in about two and a half years.
Ela Sustainable Solutions is now being groomed by Ernst & Young under the Kerala Startup Mission and is also exploring a tie-up with the government where urban farmers can get subsidies to set up a backyard, rooftop, or home polyhouse and hydroponic systems.