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Hydroponics production in Mauritius

Gradual shift from traditional cultivation to Hydroponics in Mauritius

Presently, most of the crops produced in Mauritius are obtained through the traditional open-field cultivation, but due to problems like infestation of pests and diseases, unfavourable weather conditions linked to climate change, shortage of labour and high cost of production, many growers are gradually shifting from traditional open-field cultivation to hydroponics production. Hydroponics is a rather new type of cultivation in Mauritius and has been adopted by growers around 10 years ago. According to the Strategic Options for Crop and Livestock 2007-2015, there were 6 hydroponic promoters in Mauritius in 1999, who were involved in 25 hydroponics units. Over the years this number has increased considerably to 179 promoters  in 2006 who were producing crops under hydroponics in 301 units. The main crops grown under hydroponics production in Mauritius are: tomato, sweet-pepper, green cucumber, melon, lettuce and ornamentals.
 
General concepts of a Hydroponics System

Hydroponics involves growing crops in a soil-less medium, where the plant is supported either by water (in water culture) or a solid substrate other than soil (in substrate culture). In order to grow crops under hydroponics culture, a well-maintained Greenhouse is required, whereby the plants are cultivated under a controlled environment (Temperature, Relative Humidity, irrigation, fertilisation, pests & diseases, and other external weather conditions). The different terms used to describe hydroponics are nutri-culture, water-culture, substrate culture, gravel-culture, sand culture, rockwool culture, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) etc. The type of culture depends on the medium being used and the most popular one in Mauritius is the substrate culture and the most common substrate being used is coco-peat. Since the crops are grown in a soil-less medium, the nutrients required by the plant needs to be provided. This is done through a fertigation system (irrigation and fertilisation done at the same time). The nutrient solution is automatically mixed by a computer system (depending on the crop nutrient requirement) and both macro and micro nutrients are provided to the crops. In a hydroponics system, more crops can be grown on the same area of land compared to the traditional farming since the crops grow vertically and there is more production/area.

Sweet Pepper grown under hydroponics culture in a Greenhouse
Fertigation System used for hydroponics production
Computer system controlling nutrient solution
Experience of a young entrepreneur in hydroponics production

Mr. Vikash    Ramtohul is 38 years old and is engaged in agriculture for the past 15 years. Currently, he is cultivating sweet-pepper under hydroponics production, which is also a family business operating under the name of Keebec Hydrotech Ltd. Agriculture has always been part of of his life as his father was engaged in crop production and after school, he used to help him in the field. 


With time, agriculture had become his passion and after secondary school, he decided to follow his father’s footsteps and ventured into crop production. He started with open-field cultivation, and practised the same for nearly 7 years. But one day one of his clients told him about hydroponics production and suggested that he think about it. Considering the challenges he was facing in the traditional open-field cultivation (mainly labour shortage, high cost of production, pest and disease outbreak, unfavourable weather conditions), he decided to shift from traditional farming to hydroponics production.


Sweet-pepper production under hydroponics
It’s been 6 years since Mr. Vikash is producing crops under hydroponics culture at Bassin Road, Quatre-Bornes (a town in the central part of Mauritius). He owns 3 Greenhouses (two Greenhouses of 450 Metre square and one of 614 Metre square). He started by producing tomato for two years and then shifted to sweet-pepper production. According to him, the sweet-pepper plant can produce up to 1 year.
According to Mr. Vikash, for someone to be a successful hydroponics grower, he/she should know the following steps:

  • Preparation of site
  • All cultural practices from seedlings production
  • Pest and disease control
  • Fertigation Management
For growers who are interested in hydroponics production, technical support is provided by the Agricultural Research and Extension Unit (AREU) and loan facilities are obtained by the Development Bank of Mauritius (DBM).
 
Some costs involved in sweet-pepper production
According to Mr. Vikash, the following costs are incurred for sweet-pepper production per greenhouse per cycle:
Coco peat= Rs 88/unit (450 required for 1 greenhouse)
Seed= Rs 9/unit (4 seeds in 1 coco peat)
Total cost for fertiliser= Rs 75,000
Labour = Rs 5,600/labour (2 labour/greenhouse)
Sweet pepper production/cycle = Rs 450,000

Marketing
Mr. Vikash sells his products to re-sellers and also to supermarkets and hotels. For him, marketing is not really a problem.

 
Major challenges
The major challenges faced by Mr. Vikash as a hydroponics grower are:
1) Pests
Due to climate change, he is getting problems of pests in the greenhouse. The main pests are thrips and red spider mite
 
Below is a Power Point presentation on pests and diseases of greenhouse sweet-peppers in Mauritius (by my friends and I as an assignment during our final year at university), in which more information on hydroponics and pest & disease management can be obtained:

2) Service Providers

When cladding materials need to be changed in the greenhouse, Mr. Vikash claims that the service which is being provided locally is not very good and he is not satisfied with their work. He believes that there should be more trained professionals in this field and more research should be done in this area.
 
Way forward
According to Mr. Vikash, considering the challenges that growers cultivating in the open-field are facing, he is sees hydroponics as the future of the Mauritian agriculture, and he is satisfied by this type of production.
 
After meeting Mr. Vikash and from my own experience as a graduate in agriculture, it can be said that hydroponics is the answer to the following challenges in Mauritius:
  • Growing population and increasing number of tourists 
  • Agricultural lands converted into residential areas or shopping malls
  • Climate change leading to unfavourable weather conditions and outbreak of new pests and diseases
  • Lack of labour
Another positive aspect of hydroponics is that it is a new way of cultivating crops that may attract youth in agriculture as it does not involve working in the field like the traditional method and with appropriate knowledge and skills, they may even earn a good living and be respected in the society.
 
However, the main disadvantage of this type of cultivation is that the initial cost is very high (construction of greenhouse, purchase of cladding material, fertigation system etc.), and it is only after a year or two that the grower starts to make profit in the business! 
 
Check out some pictures taken at Mr. Vikash Ramtohul’s place here.

About Nawsheen Hosenally

Nawsheen Hosenally, a national of the Republic of Mauritius, has over 6 years of experience in the agricultural sector, specifically focusing on the engagement of youth in agriculture through the use of ICTs. Currently, Nawsheen is the co-Founder of Agribusiness TV, a web TV that features success stories of young agricultural entrepreneurs in Africa. Nawsheen holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Extension from the University of Mauritius, and a Master’s degree in Management and Information Systems from the University of Manchester.

28 comments on “Hydroponics production in Mauritius

  1. Very interesting post. I like it. Can you put me in contact with Mr. Vikash? And if possible, can you guide me to where to obtain the information present in the first part.

    1. hi Nawsheen ,hope you are fine ,i’m koonal,your project work is very good,could you please if it’s possible to sent me vikash contact num,thanks

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    Drip Irrigation is the most modern technique of applying water directly to the root zone of the plant in right quantity at the right time and at the right place.

    For More Details visit http://sujayirrigations.com/

  5. DRIP EMITTERS
    Drip irrigation is one such technology, which has assumed great importance in the recent times. In the present situation when the irrigated area is increasing, ground water table is dwindling and availability of surface water for irrigation is getting reduced, drip irrigation is the only answer to meet the growing demand of water.

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  6. Hi Nawsheen,

    Very useful information. Where can i obtain information about equipments that is required for setting up hydroponic garden.

  7. hi…i wanted to know what is the app cost of a greenhouse and where can we it i mauritius or if you can get me a contact number. thanks.

  8. I wish to have more info about marketing for hydroponic.
    all my formalities have been done with DBM and has been appoved and i’ll be starting within 1 month.
    It will be gratefull if u could revert to me as soon as possible.
    I wish to have some information about the marketing.
    here’s my contact Num 7464412.

  9. Hi
    First Thanks for sharing all these with us. Very informative.
    I am new to this and would like to start.
    1st question : where can one get net cups in Mauritius??
    Thanks for your answer
    Regards
    Luke

  10. I have a hydroponik in Grand Bois am new in this i need help to care and for a formation in this plss can u help me

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