Today climate change is a reality all over the globe. In India, temperatures have been reaching soaring heights for the past few years. This in turn affects the crops of millions of farmers across the country. The problem has become so severe in fact that during 2015 8000 farmers committed suicide as a result.
Kheyti, an Indian startup founded in 2016, wanted to try remedy the situation by inventing an affordable modular greenhouse for low-income farmers. They noted how 120 million farmers in India still utilised greenhouses designed for farmers in developed countries and saw an opportunity to introduce a more cost-effective solution. Consequently, Greenhouse In a Box (GIB) was born.
The modular structure – which occupies only 2% of the land area of a typical small-scale farm in India – is designed to protect crops from harsh elements like the sun’s rays, wind and hail. It also comprises two layers of shade netting on top to reduce temperatures inside the unit, and features insect netting on the sides which reduces pest attacks by up to 90%.
While Kheyti certainly does allow farmers to yield more produce, its real aim is to empower farmers to pave their way out of poverty. This is why Kheyti offers training programmes, market advisory systems and financial aid measures to help make farmers more self-reliant so they can generate a sustainable income.
Kaushik Kappagantulu, co-founder of Kheyti, explains, “If we give them [farmers] a greenhouse and they don’t have access to the right seeds and fertilisers to be used inside, the crop fails and they’re back in the same cycle. If we don’t give them the right training needed to manage any diseases or growing practices that need to be done inside, again, the crop fails. If they can’t get access to the financing to buy the greenhouse in the first place, not enough small farmers are going to buy it.”
Right now, Kheyti is working on the proof-of-concept with 15 other farmers who have all purchased units. By next year, the startup aims to up this number to 300.
As South Africa undergoes one of the worst droughts to take place over the last 45 years, we hope that local innovators will join Kheyti’s “smart farmer revolution” Considering that GIB uses 90% less water than standard greenhouses and can grow up to 7 times more food, it certainly seems like something that would benefit low-income farmers in South Africa particularly during times of drought.
What we really like about GIB however is that its model incorporates linkages to financiers for affordable greenhouse loans, high-quality seeds and fertilisers, on-going assistance as well as to market players to sell produce. Could something like this work in South Africa? We’d be curious to find out.
To learn more, please visit www.kheyti.com.
*Photo credit: Janice Cantieri via FastCompany.