Although traditional farming is prevalent in India, now new farming technology like polyhouse farming provides better income. Farmers require expert guidance to use this new technology of polyhouse farming. In this paper we propose a system which provides online interaction between farmers and the consultants. This enables the consultant to provide better services to more farmers, which can in turn bring the cost of hiring a consultant down. Such a “high-tech and high-touch” solution can optimally leverage the benefits of technology and human capabilities and could prove to be more effective than fully automated solutions in the longer run.
Agriculture and allied sectors contributes 24% of the total GDP and provides employment to around 70% Indian population. Indian farmers face several challenges such as small land holding, poor yields due to reliance on inefficient methods of farming, too much reliance on natural phenomena such as rainfall and lack of knowledge of modern methods of agriculture.
Polyhouse farming/ shelter farming is an alternative new technique in agriculture gaining foothold in rural India. It reduces dependency on rainfall and makes the optimum use of land and water resources. Potentially, polyhouse farming can help the farmer generate income round the year growing multiple crops. This also helps them spread their risks.
Polyhouse farming enables cultivation of crops that can give maximum yield on specific days (e.g. roses on Valentine’s day) and exotic crops that can’t be normally grown in Indian conditions. It also enables cultivation of regular crops off-season, thus fetching the farmer a higher price (e.g. tomato, chilli,capsicum, brinjal, cucumber, cabbage,cauliflower). Apart from this cut Flowers can be grown round the year. Polyhouse farming entails construction of a metal structure covered by polythene.
Parameters such as moisture, soil nutrients and temperature in the polyhouse are controlled to ensure timely and abundant yields.
Typical polyhouses are from 500 square meters to 15,000 square meters, which makes them suitable for farmers with small land holding. The polyhouse also differ in terms of cost.Government of India and state governments gives 80% subsidy for low cost polyhouses, 70% to 50% for medium cost polyhouses and 10% for high cost polyhouses as an incentive .
Polyhouse farming process requires expertise in three areas - construction of the structure, cultivation techniques and marketing. Within cultivation, the pre-harvest techniques include irrigation, providing fertilisers, pesticides and micro-nutrients, maintaining temperature, humidity and sunlight in the polyhouse, cutting,pruning and cleaning practices and controlling pH and electrical conductivity of the soil. The post-harvest techniques include cutting, storage cooling chambers and transport by cooling vans.
The government as well as private polyhouse construction companies provide practical training to the farmers for a month or two.However, this short training is not sufficient to understand the complex polyhouse farming techniques, particularly the pre-harvest techniques.
This has given rise to a new profession of a polyhouse consultant. While the farmers do the actual work, the consultant provides the schedule of tasks on an ongoing basis. The consultant frequently visits the sites for investigating as well as scheduling the production cycle and reviews soil sample reports. Depending on the area of the polyhouse, a consultant charges between Rs.30,000 to Rs. 50,000 per year. Such services are also provided by the companies that erect polyhouses.
Further Polyhouses have reached a high level of automation. Some commercial polyhouse systems automatically monitor and control several environmental parameters including inside air temperature, relativity humidity, soil pH value and electrical conductivity. A farmer can set reference values and then the system maintains these values automatically .However such systems are very expensive. A low- to medium-cost polyhouse could cost between Rs. 400 to 1000 per square meter in India, whereas a high-cost, fully-automated polyhouse costs around Rs. 2,500 per square meter . Most Indian farmers cannot afford such high costs. Moreover, automation is not a major problem in Indian polyhouses, since labour cost is not very expensive . On the other hand, lack of expertise and backend support is a major problem for Indian farmers.
ADVANTAGES OF A GREEN HOUSE :
Due to controlled conditions there is better germination, plant growth and crops mature faster.
Crop is protected from cold, wind, rain, storm, frost and snow.
Improved quality & quantity of produce.
Use of water is optimized and there is reduction in its consumption by 70 - 80%.
Incidence of disease and pests is reduced.
Crops can be grown throughout the year.
Commercial production of high value crops like cut flowers, vegitables, medicinal plants, etc.
Can be used for solar drying of farm produce.