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Pune Software Engineer Uses Hydroponics to Grow Saffron in Shipping Container
Dr.G.R.Balakrishnan Feb 28 2023 Marine News

Pune Software Engineer Uses Hydroponics to Grow Saffron in Shipping Container

History has been witness that India’s spices are worth wars. A special spice that the country has to offer is saffron, or ‘Red Gold’, which originates from the flower of Crocus sativus. 

While the spice is always in huge demand, the production is concentrated in a small area in Kashmir. But software engineer Shailesh Modak has made growing it possible in Pune, after quitting his 13-year career to successfully plant and grow the spice in a shipping container using hydroponics

In his first crop, he was able to grow 875 grams, which was sold for Rs 500 per gram. While he invested Rs 10 lakh for research and setting up the lab, he has already earned Rs 5 Lakh in revenue

Growing up in a middle-class household in Nashik, Shailesh always was taught to have stable jobs with steady earnings, he recalls. 

“Growing up, my brothers and I were taught to always work hard and have stable jobs. So when I decided to quit my 13-year-long career to become an entrepreneur, it felt like a life-altering decision,” Shailesh Modak tells The Better India.

“I had heard of the technology, but it took me a lot of research, hours of browsing books, and reading on the internet to truly understand it. I had figured that a plant only needs water, sun and nutrients to grow. My work visits to Cambodia and Vietnam proved beneficial, as a few friends helped me with my research,” he says, adding that the research took him more than a year.

“I came up with the idea of using shipping containers to develop controlled environments, where crops can be grown. I went to Mumbai, bought a shipping container for Rs 5 lakh and had it shipped to Pune. The reason behind using a shipping container is that they are very good insulators,” he explains.

Talking about the benefits of hydroponics, he said, “Imagine a room full of plants with roots hanging in the air with no soil. Sounds amazing right? Hydroponics has numerous benefits. Firstly since the atmosphere is controlled, it can produce output year long. There is 95 percent less water wastage because there is no soil involved and the process also helps in tackling pests,” he adds.

Indoor planting helps the year-round production of vegetables and fruits. Initially, Shailesh grew crops like lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes etc.

If you have a room, you can grow saffron in it is what we are looking into now. We keep getting calls from farmers and young people interested in agriculture to learn the technique. So we also want to help them and spread the technique,” he says about his future plans.