India: Engineer-duo’s hydroponic setup produces 50kg fodder a day

Two engineers came up with a unique project for their Master’s course in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management at the TERI School of Advanced Studies, Delhi. Souryadeep Basak, an electrical engineer from Kolkata, and Lavkesh Balchandani, a mechanical engineer from Indore, developed a solar-powered hydroponic fodder unit that can generate 50 kgs of fodder per day. Their hydroponic fodder unit could cost farmers approximately Rs 15,000, including solar panels, control systems, and other inputs.

Running on a direct current system, without an inverter, the unit directly employs solar power without rising costs for converting DC energy to alternating current. Requiring 95% less water than traditional fodder production, this unit takes just eight days from seed to feed with zero down-time owing to the soilless nature of this enterprise. Moreover, in a given month, this unit needs just 0.5 units of electricity, utilizing energy-efficient cooling strategies.

“We first conceived this idea sometime in April 2020 during our second semester at TERI. We had enrolled in the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge, a global, multi-disciplinary competition that empowers teams of university students to help accelerate clean energy access funded by UK aid and the IKEA Foundation. We won the bronze medal in the Grand Final. At the initial stage, the idea was quite different. It began as an idea for growing exotic vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers in a rural setting because we thought these are high-value crops and rural residents would directly benefit a lot. But we were chastised by our mentors for not factoring in the supply chain challenges involved in distributing such produce. That’s why we settled on fodder, a key component where centers of production and consumption coincide in rural areas,” says Souryadeep.

“Before even conceptualizing this system, however, we were working on different lighting solutions for hydroponics. We did some research and development, optimized lighting schedules, spectrums and colors that would be most conducive for growth. That process took place sometime between July and August 2020. After we perfected the lighting schedule, we grew a batch of lettuce. This was done to understand the efficacy of hydroponics. We remember growing lettuce throughout the Delhi winters, which are harsh. Last year, there were a lot of hailstorms as well. I had set up the hydroponics unit on the rooftop of my flat. That was a test to see whether our system could withstand difficult climatic conditions,” he notes.

Read the complete article at www.thebetterindia.com.


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