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Agriculture Technology: Soilless Strawberry cultivation using information technology controls

An experiment to grow Japanese strawberries in information technology-controlled conditions in Pune district was successful. It has prompted Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to scale up the project.

To expand the project so that local farmers can carry on cultivation on their own, JICA will provide a grant of approximately Rs 2.63 crore.

"We have had a successful harvest from the Japanese strawberry plants. The next phase is to ensure profitability for local farmers. This year, we are experimenting with growing plants in a three-tier system so that we can triple the harvest. Next year, we hope to introduce the cultivation techniques to local farmers," said Shankar Jadhav, executive director of the NGO Institute of Cultural Affairs.

In a half-acre greenhouse, that was set up for the project at Talegaon Dabhade, about 15,000 Japanese strawberry plants have been cultivated. The plants yielded more than 22,000 kg strawberries last season, he added.

Hiroki Iwasa, an IT engineer, came up with an idea to apply information technology to soilless culture of strawberries. General Reconstruction Association (GRA) helped grow the first strawberry saplings in India at the College of Agriculture, Pune, in 2012 on a test-basis.

Jadhav said the main challenge in cultivating strawberries is temperature control. By means of a special cooling system, the temperature in the greenhouse is never allowed to exceed 30 degrees Celsius.

Japanese strawberries are sweeter and fetch a much higher price. "We sell them at Rs 500, per kg, so that they are profitable for local farmers. Moreover, we hardly use any pesticides and liquid fertiliser is used moderately," he added.

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