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NEW DELHI : After quitting a high-flying job in the private sector, an engineer from Uttar Pradesh has entered into the business of growing chemical-free vegetables in water in the NCR region and is looking to enter Mumbai and Bengaluru markets soon.

After 13 years of experience in product management and supply chain restructuring, Chandan Varshney — co-founder of OnlyHydroponics (Varshney Hydrofarms Pvt Ltd) — decided to innovate in farming.

"At present, we are still a very bootstrapped company, but we are looking at raising funds to expand the business. Huge opportunities are there in the sector as awareness is increasing about the severe effects of pesticides in fruits and vegetables, which we consume every day. We get orders from hotels, individuals and restaurants," Varshney said.

Derived from the two Greek words hydro and ponos, meaning water and labour, respectively, hydroponics is defined as a method of growing plants in water, rather than in soil. 

While this process may seem arbitrary, the growing of plants in nutrient-rich water has been practised for centuries, he said.

Further explaining the system, he said the roots of a plant are suspended either in a static, continuously aerated nutrient solution or within a continuous flow or mist of nutrient solution.

The hydroponics system offers several advantages over the traditional use of soil for plants. 

The plant is not grown in soil, which provides the ability to control exactly what type of nutrients are entering the plants, allowing workers to immediately correct any possible nutritional deficiencies, he added.

The company grows different vegetables and herbs, including basil, spinach, different types of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and green, red and yellow bell peppers.

"A little bit of support from the government can help in further increasing the awareness about these vegetables and reducing cancer in India. Huge export potential is also there. Increase in volumes will gradually help in reducing the prices also," Varshney said.

The company is working with farmers from areas like Greater Noida and Matura.

Setting up the facility at one acre of land costs about 1.2 crore to 1.4 crore.

"As the demand is increasing we will be launching it in Mumbai and Bengaluru soon," Varshney said.

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