Hyderabad-based hydroponics farm, Simply Fresh has now forayed into medicinal plants for nutraceutical companies
Even before the team at Simply Fresh, a hydroponics farm, began to work on their greenhouses for produce, they decided to dig a rainwater harvesting pit.
The pit was dug on six acres of their newly-acquired 250 acres of farmland near Komuravelli village in Siddipet, Telangana. The first farm by Simply Fresh was at Shameerpet. This rainwater harvesting pit and the water processing plant meets the farm’s irrigation needs up to nine months.
While passing through the sleepy village with colourful wooden-framed mud houses and an enormous swamp, one would not expect to encounter a hydroponic farm at the end. The staff at Simply Fresh however takes pride in calling the farm a sustainable food factory. Sachin Darbarwar, the CEO and founder, asserts that Simply Fresh is India’s largest plant factory. Since its inception in 2013, the company that gave Hyderabad and the F&B industry fresh salad leaves — right from red romaine to rocket leaves — cherry tomatoes, jalapenos and crunchy fruity peppers, has now forayed into raw material (medicinal plants) for nutraceuticals (medicinal food products).
Sachin says, “In a country like ours, where we have scarcity of water especially for agricultural use, we can reduce our water consumption drastically by up to 1/10th of the traditional farming water consumption by using hydroponic and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. While we sold our fresh produce like a range of lettuces, vine crops, leafy greens and fresh herbs, we dedicated a section of our farm for research and development of medicinal plants. We were not ready to approach any pharmaceutical company till we were satisfied with the products and the nutrient contents in them. After our medicinal plants were lab tested, we found the medicinal produce grown hydroponically have three times more alkaloid content than field-grown plants. And, we started marketing it.”
The list of medicinal plants grown by Simply Fresh for nutraceutical extracts includes high curcumin content turmeric, ashwagandha, ginger, safed, musli, shatavari, bacopa, Centella asiatica, holy basil, Gymnema sylvestre and Phyllanthus amarus. These serve as raw material for nutraceutical companies. We did R&D for rare and different species with the motive of conservation through cultivation. Having met the standards of the nutraceutical companies, and complied with the rules, we have started contract farming for a few,” informs Sachin.
The agricultural scientists at the farm inform they have combined hydroponic soil-less farming with AI technology, making it more effective. Chief scientific officer Satya Prasad explains, “Factors like crop profiling — analysing seeds for better germination, measuring nutrient requirement of plants along with automated AI-controlled greenhouses for maintaining an ideal environment for plants are all done using AI technology. Our greenhouses are digitally controlled by an AI platform called ‘Farm in A Box’ (FiAB), which determines and detects climate conditions and requirements for the plants and alters the environment to suit their needs.”