In Kerala, restaurant menus now hinge on in-house hydroponic farms

Kochi-based agri-tech company sets up hydroponic farms for restaurants and resorts. Tonico Cafe in Kakkanad, Kochi, gets fresh basil, kale and cilantro from a garden on its own walls. The cafe, popular for its pastas and soups, turned to hydroponic farming a few months ago, in order to produce its own supplies. “We need a lot of basil for our signature pesto sauce. Good quality basil is difficult to procure in the State and we decided to grow our own,” says Tony Jose, founder and CEO of Tonico. Tony now gets a steady supply of basil from his vertical garden. 

“In between successive lockdowns, restaurants and resorts found it extremely difficult to find good quality veggies. Now, there is a growing interest among restaurant owners who want to set up their own hydroponic farms to become self-sufficient,” says Ashwin Ramachandran, founder and CEO PlantMe Agro Solutions, a Kochi-based agri-tech startup, which has been setting up hydroponic vegetable and fruit gardens for commercial establishments across the State. 

Started by Ashwin, Nithin Kumar, Parvathy Sasikumar and Akhila Ramdas, a year-and-a-half ago, PlantMe aims at educating and encouraging more businesses to grow their own greens. “The idea is to make people aware of the importance of eating clean, sustainable food,” says Ashwin.

Elixir Hills, a resort in Munnar, recently set up a poly house for hydroponic farming on 2,000 sq.ft, yielding large bounties of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and strawberries, which take care of most of its kitchen needs. Though these vegetables and fruits do grow Munnar, which is cooler than other parts of Kerala, the yield is usually susceptible to the vagaries of weather. “By setting up a protected environment and not using pesticides, we are looking at a long term goal of achieving food security,” says Luke Stephen, managing director of Elixir. 

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