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India: Solan youth aims to turn ‘mushroom city of India’ into ‘saffron city’

Using the novel aeroponic technique, Gaurav Sabarwal is experimenting with bringing the cold temperatures of Kashmir to Solan for the growth of saffron (kesar). With this technique in which soil, land, or water is not used and is mostly popular in Iran and Israel, this local businessman turned agriculturist aims to transform the ‘mushroom city of India’ into ‘saffron city.’

Sabarwal told The Indian Express that after his father’s death four years ago, he had to step into his father’s shoes, quite literally, by managing the latter’s shoe shop. “But I always had a dream of being an agriculturist. Despite several resentments from my family, I wanted to try my luck at farming. It was then that I started surfing the internet on mushroom farming. But Solan already has an abundance of mushrooms and is the ‘mushroom City of India.’ Aiming to do something different, I came across this unique technique from Israel and Iran, where without the use of soil, water, and land, one can grow saffron, the costliest spice in the world,” he added.

Factoring in the similarities of temperatures of India and Iran, Sabarwal was convinced that this technique could work in India too. “This technique is called aeroponic – a unique way to grow plants without the use of soil – in which roots of the plants are suspended in the air and irrigated with a nutrient-dense mist. In this technique, we keep the conditions of very low temperatures as is the case in Kashmir, and is best suited for the growth of saffron using machines and provide the environment best suited for its cultivation,” he explained.

Sabarwal added that initially, his family laughed off the idea, but after seeing the results, got “happy” and “excited. “Recently, when the yield started showing up, the family got very happy and excited,” he said.


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