I will start with a cross-question. How much does a car cost in India?
The answer, it depends.
It depends upon what all you want to be in the car, who makes it, what technology it uses, what fuel it runs on, what is the quality of spare parts that go into it, how fast it accelerates, how much power it packs under the hood, and many other factors like that. There can be price differentials of more than 3x to 5x across models providing similar utility.
When one goes for Hydroponics Farming at a commercial scale, there are a few components of cost that will remain fixed while there are others, that will vary depending upon the choice of tech and set-up.
In today’s post, we will briefly analyze the important components and try to arrive at a ballpark estimate for setting up a Commercial Hydroponic farm in India. We will divide this post into two parts. In the first part, we will cover the Outer Structure.
The Fixed Cost – The Outer Shell:
Before one even begins to set up the technology inside, the first cost that a commercial grower will encounter will be towards setting up the outer structure. Within the outer structure, there will be different choices with different cost implications.
The scope of this article does not cover in-depth detailing of these choices, still, for a layman’s benefit, let’s examine the two parameters that impact the cost quickly.
Choice of Design:
Flat Roof Structure
This structure is usually used for a Net House. This costs low and allows for good air circulation (since the covering net allows air to pass through). However, because of the net-based structure, it does not provide protection against rain. Also because of the flat roof, debris (or let’s say snow during hail storm) will accumulate on the roof and may damage the structure. Aerodynamically, it cannot withstand heavy winds.
This shape is suggested for areas which receive low rainfall, no hailstorm, and wind speeds of less than 100 km/ph.
Within the flat roof structure, one can go for pipe purlin (roof made out of GI pipes, just like the sides) or Cable purlin (roof made out of GI cables, sides out of GI pipes).
Round/Dome Shaped Structure
This structure has a curved top design which helps in air circulation, the collection of rainwater, and also sliding of debris or hail storm. This structure is costlier than the flat roof structure and is usually covered using polycarbonate or other such non-permeable sheets.
Choice of Outer Covering:
This is the cheapest option. As the name suggests, it is primarily used to provide shade to the plants to protect them from the harsh sun. It comes in different qualities, different colors, and different shade factors like 25%, 50%, 75% etc.
A good quality, UV stabilized, HDPE shade net should last for at least 3 years. This, however, will not provide any protection against rain or insects. It provides limited protection from wind and can tolerate heavy winds as it allows most of the pressure to pass through. Also, since it allows for relatively free movement of wind, the temperature inside and outside a shade net house do not differ much (unlike in a polyhouse where inside temperature is much higher than outside). This provides a good and cheaper alternative in tropical and warm regions.
An insect net costs almost 70% more than a shade net. It has tiny holes that do not allow insects to pass through. A good quality insect net will be UV stabilized, made of HDPE monofilament fiber to a size of 40/50 mesh.
One usual set of choice adopted by many a nursery owners and net house structures is to use insect net on the sides and shade net on the top. This helps in keeping costs low and keeping most of the insects out and also good temperature regulation owing to natural ventilation of warm air through the shade net at the top. However, insects can still come in through the shade net at the top surface.
Another choice, though a little costly, but better for pest control, is to cover all sides and top with an insect net, and then place the second layer of shade net on top of the insect net on the roof. This is the design choice we adopted while creating CityGreen’s Urban Gardening Research Centre at our office in Bangalore. One disadvantage of this design (in warm climates) is relatively higher temperature inside the structure. Thnecessitatestes use of foggers to bring the temperature down. The foggers also provide an ancillary benefit of increasing the humidity in the arid and warm climate which helps the plants grow quicker and healthier.
Poly Ethylene or PolyCarbonate or PVC or other plastic-based coverings are the material of choice while creating a climate controlled greenhouse. Because of the plastic covering used, they are generally referred to as poly houses.
A poly-house is the structure of choice in climatic zones that experience varied weather conditions like extreme hot or cold or rains or hail storm etc. Within the poly-house, one can go for temperature control through natural ventilation and exhaust fans or through a slightly costlier cooling pad and fan system.
There are few other choices of structures and covering material too like A-frame, rigid frame, glass etc. but we will not cover them as cost-benefit wise, they are not as reliable on a commercial scale as the ones covered above.
Coming to cost for these structures, following are the ballpark estimates for setting up 1 acre of GreenHouse at current prevailing market rates.
- Flat Roof Shade Net with Cable purlin (Wire Rope Net House) – 8 to 10 L
- Flat Roof Shade Net with Pipe Purlin – (Shade Net House) – 12 to 15 L
- Dome-shaped Poly house (naturally ventilated Poly House) – 25 to 30 L
- Dome-shaped Poly house with fan and pad cooling system (Climate Controlled Poly House) – 45 to 50 L
Do note that the above prices are for an acre, the lower the area, the higher will be the cost per sq M and vice versa. This is because the larger area will allow for amortization of fixed costs, like that of labor and installation over a larger area, bringing the cost per sq M down.
Coming back to our analogy of the car, now that you have a fair idea of cost for outer structure, you need to select the car that will suit your requirements. Do you just need to go from point A to B in city traffic or will you mostly be doing off-roading? Are you ok with an open jeep or do you need a state of art dual climate control system?
It is important that you make all those decisions to arrive at the optimal choice of outer structure that fits your specific needs. And depending upon your needs and business plan, a one-acre structure can set you off anywhere between 10 L to 50 L. That is the first investment that you will need for setting up a 1 Acre Hydroponic farm.
In the next part of this article, we try to explore the cost of setting up an NFT Hydroponic system inside the farm.
Hope this article will help you in gaining some clarity and business decision making. All the best your plans, and
Gaurav is an entrepreneur whose first Start-up was focused on providing services to patients suffering from Chronic Diseases. While researching about the causes of lifestyle diseases and the ways to reduce their incidence, he chanced upon the idea of growing healthy and nutritious food using advanced farming techniques.
He founded CityGreens with a mission to enable City Dwellers to access Safe, Healthy and Fresh food.