Gradual shift from traditional cultivation to Hydroponics in Mauritius
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|
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
Mr. Vikash sells his products to re-sellers and also to supermarkets and hotels. For him, marketing is not really a problem.
2) Service Providers
- 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