Seeds of change: Greenhouse – a step towards sustainable agriculture

Published: September 20, 2019
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A Reuters file photo of an agricultural field.

A Reuters file photo of an agricultural field.

FAISALABAD: Innovation is contagious and more so if it contributes to productivity and output.  Even while much of Pakistan is far behind in the race for newer and efficient ways to produce fresh fruit and vegetables, a farm in Faisalabad is making significant gains.

A farm owner in Pakistan’s textile hub is trying the latest tricks of the trade to cultivate crops throughout the year.

“We have imported machinery from Turkey to build the state-of-the-art greenhouses in Faisalabad,” said Waseem Afzal.

His sprawling farm sits on 25 acres, and he is willing to experiment with the land. Much of Afzal’s produce ends up selling in his stores in Lahore and other urban locations.

Hydroponics technology to ensure food security

According to the experts, greenhouses provide a controlled environment, which allows vegetables and fruits to grow year-round.

The use of greenhouses and other modern cultivation techniques have helped Afzal increase his produce.  He introduced drip irrigation to his farms, among other tweaks to traditional practices.

Relatively inexpensive and easy to install, the drip irrigation system helps maximize plant health due to the reduced moisture levels.

Afzal said drip irrigation helps him save more than 50% water.  Listing the benefits of using greenhouses, the farm owner said the crops come out sturdier.

Through the greenhouses, Afzal has successfully been able to cultivate a wide variety of crops. These include wheat, cucumber, zucchini, and tomatoes all year round and against all the weather related challenges.

“Greenhouses are playing a very important role in countries like the Netherlands, Israel, and India,” said Afzal, a strong proponent of new agricultural techniques.

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“The future of agriculture in Pakistan is greenhouses,” he added. “Crops are allowed to grow in a controlled environment in such facilities, which limits the chances of damage,” he explained.

Other approaches

According to experts, farmers who experiment with techniques like tunnel farming would also be able to boost their yield.  Tunnel farming operates on the principle of creating summer-like conditions during winter. It allows farmers to cultivate these vegetables during winter, making them available throughout the year.

Afzal believes such techniques would prevent the shortage of vegetables and make the country self-sufficient.

Commenting on the use of greenhouses and other cost-effective ways to cultivate, Punjab Agriculture Department Director General Dr Anjum Ali said: “Such techniques allow us to produce vegetables and other crops free from the fear of pesticides.”

“Producing our crops in a controlled environment makes them more desirable in the international market,” he added.

According to Dr Ali, farmers, who employ drip irrigation, and greenhouse techniques, receive subsidies from the government.

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Consumer verdict

While old-fashioned cultivation still has an important role to play, consumers believe there is a distinct difference in the quality of vegetables produced through advanced techniques and cost-effective greenhouse systems.

“There is a considerable difference between the quality of products and the prices, but we are not ready to make any compromises on health,” said one consumer, who seemed satisfied with the quality of agriproducts coming out of farms similar to the one Afzal runs. 

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2019.

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