Published: 23rd March 2020
Want to build your own private garden? Ela Sustainable Solutions is here to help
The founders of Ela Sustainable Solutions about how they managed to set up hydroponic farms and polyhouses in people's houses
In the millennial era, our houses have become compact self-sustained worlds. As we campaign for a future where everything we need is at the tip of our fingers, final-year Electrical Engineering student Amal Mathew had a Eureka! moment that kept him up at night. At a time when we are trying to gain more control over the food we eat and the resources we use, he wondered why we couldn't bring the production process into our own houses.
So, he latched on to the idea of hydroponics, the method of growing plants using only water-based mineral nutrients without the need for any soil. In the absence of soil, it eliminates the problem of pests and is sophisticated enough to be set up in an individual house. Amal began experimenting with it as part of his academic experiments in Cochin University of Science and Technology. He researched the subject with the help of Shijin VS, a professor at the university.
Their insight into the technology grew so intriguing that by 2017, Shijin decided to resign from his job and work with Amal on setting up their own company that they called Ela Sustainable Solutions. Soon, they developed prototypes and planned to expand it into the commercial sector. By 2018, they were joined by another electrical expert, Adarsh Suresh who also became a co-founder. They set up hydroponic farms and polyhouses.
“We wanted to merge technologies,” explains Adarsh, “The initial effort was to make our way into agro tech. It started as a farm city unit where we produced food and other resources using these technologies. We began hyperlocal delivery of vegetables to people’s houses.” To familiarise customers with the work and technology that went behind it, they were allowed a sneak peak into the farms with the help of a QR code that would lead to a live stream of their work. People could also visit the farms themselves and watch the produce being made.
When people grew familiar with the idea, the company began setting up units in their houses so that they could do it on their own. Adarsh says, “Our work is based on people's requirements. We now create a customised, packaged brand that we sell in organic stores around Kochi. We have started to get enquires from the commercial sector as well.” Since 2019, the company has started to work with commercial farms.
Polyhouses are specially constructed tunnels for growing plants under controlled conditions. The first trouble they ran into was the fact that it requires a fair amount of sophistication to keep them running. Adarsh explains, “People have to spend a lot of time on polyhouses. Initially, they weren’t maintaining them. So, we set up automated polyhouses. The temperature, humidity and irrigation are automatic. You only need to spend 5 to 10 minutes in the mornings to make sure that the right amount of nutrients are supplied. Anyone can make it work!”
Ela has set up 42 farms across Kochi so far. With a majority of home-based units, they have also set up three commercial farms. This year, they hope to create a mobile application where people can get the products delivered to their house directly from the farm. The team promises its customer base that they can expect returns from their own farm in about two and a half years. And honestly, who wouldn’t want a tiny farm in their garage?