MULTAN-In a promising development, hydroponics, a sophisticated technique for cultivating vegetables and fruits without soil, is gaining traction in Pakistan as a potential avenue to bolster foreign exchange reserves.
This innovative method, championed by known teacher Dr Nazar Farid of the Department of Horticulture at Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture (MNSUA), holds immense promise due to its nutritional value, aesthetic appeal, and popularity in European markets. Dr Farid, a leading proponent of hydroponics, explained that this technique involves vertically growing crops in a water-based, nutrient-rich solution. Unlike traditional farming, hydroponics doesn’t rely on soil; instead, plants’ root systems are supported using inert mediums such as coco coir, perlite, or clay pellets. The results are striking: tomatoes grown in MNSUA’s 2 kanal hydroponic area exhibit not only superior nutritional content but also captivating aesthetics.
While the upfront costs of hydroponics are considerable, involving investments in both infrastructure and operations, Dr. Farid emphasized the long-term benefits. Each plant receives precisely calculated nutritional inputs, tailored to its growth stage, fostering healthy and efficient development. The use of clean irrigation water, facilitated by a Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant at MNSUA, further underscores the technique’s advantages. In terms of profitability, Dr. Farid acknowledged the challenge of identifying specific markets for these premium crops. However, he highlighted the ready demand for hydroponically cultivated high-value crops in Europe and other international markets. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for vegetables and fruits that offer both exceptional nutrition and visual appeal.
Addressing the question of feasibility for Pakistani farmers, Dr Farid pointed to the forthcoming operationalization of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He anticipates that international corporate entities entering CPEC would provide new avenues for marketing high-value crops. The growing demand for such produce is expected to create a favorable environment for farmers to earn substantial income. To expedite the adoption of hydroponics across the country, Dr. Farid recommended that the government offer subsidies to farmers. While hydroponics is currently practiced in certain pockets of Pakistan, wider implementation could lead to significant foreign exchange earnings, much like the Netherlands, USA, and China, which have capitalized on exporting hydroponically cultivated crops. In conclusion, the promotion of hydroponics presents an exciting opportunity for Pakistani agriculture. By embracing this advanced technique, farmers could not only meet the demand for premium produce in int’l markets but also contribute to country’s economic growth and resilience, he stated.