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Futuristic farming

Friday, January 04, 2019

Sarab Matharu uses vertical farming to fruitfully grow produce in an urban setting. Anushka Shinde Franklin asks her what it takes

Many of us only know the conventional method of farming. That farming is done in rural areas on the fields, or on huge acres of land. There are people in the city, however, who are taking up farming in small areas, and the secret of their success is vertical farming.

Sarab Matharu, Founder, Ecotwigs, is an urban farmer who has done her internship at the famous ‘Crazy Farmer’ on a 100% organic vertical farm, in Quebec, Canada. This is a sustainable method that requires very little space, such as a balcony or terrace area.

I asked her to describe what is required to set up a vertical farm.  According to her, ‘Vertical farming is a more enhanced form of agriculture. The plants grow upwards with the help of frames which increases the yield by three to four times and also eases the strain on farming. A vertical frame setup is required, and so are a soil blend, fertilisers, seeds and harvesting scissors.

Does it take up a lot of time? No, she says; it is very soothing as we install drip irrigation, so only 10 to 30 minutes of one’s time is more than enough for fruitful produce. She grows everything from edible flowers, to vegetables, succulents, fruits, flowers and herbs.

Sarab also conducts seminars and gives hands-on training. “Once you learn how the system works then it’s fairly easy,” she explains. “I and my team will come, set up the frames, teach you how the system works and then you can enjoy your organically grown fresh produce at home. In the beginning the investment is a little high. But considering the labour is reduced and the produce is multiplied by three to four times it is worth it.”

Currently they sell the vertical system and service, and also organically grown plants which have been nurtured with a great deal of love.  Whenever someone buys a plant, it is labelled with the birth date and a positive note. So, the person buying it knows that the plants have to be treated like babies. All her plants are personalised. “We sell a variety of flower plants, vegetable plants and succulents,” she says. No chemicals are used and she’s seeking ways to reduce the carbon footprint. They also reuse plastic packaging, that goes in the trash, instead of buying new grow bags.  The system costs `25,000 with the frame, irrigation, soil and seeds, and she says it lasts for 10 years.

Sarab is ambitious indeed! Her goal is to plant 24 million plants, which seems inordinately high, but for her, is not impossible. For her, vertical farming is a way to make people aware and beautify the city.

Saving bees is another pet project which she has been working on. People are fearful of bees, but the fact is, they pollinate our food; if they didn’t exist we would not have food to eat. If there is a beehive growing near your house, one can always hire a professional bee locater and relocate them somewhere safe, instead of burning them which is wrong, she believes. Her last statement is inspiring. “I want people to get more involved and connected to food, our roots. We live in a world which is beautiful so we should take care of it. A better healthy future will naturally follow.”

She advises youngsters to start growing their own food. “It’s fun, safe and the most delicious food you’ll put on your table,” she says. “Let us all be part of the change,” she concludes.
Contact instagram @ecotwigs.

Anushka Shinde Franklin is a food consultant and blogger

HEALTHY treats
Indulge your sweet tooth without piling on the calories this New Year with healthy treats from Country of Origin. Give your diet menu a break this season by treating yourself to some satisfyingly delicious goodies that will keep you happy as well as healthy.

Dip your spoons into a variety of desserts that won't tighten your belt. Pick from a range of treats like Gluten Free Gooey Chocolate Cake, Whole Wheat Bread, Gluten Free Granola Jars, Gluten Free Brownies, Peanut Butter and Almond Granola Bar, Gluten Free Brownie, Granola Bar, Basil and Chili Hummus and Whole Wheat Lavash.

Where All Country Of Origin outlets (Nepean Sea Road, Bandra and Juhu)
When In January

fresh drinks
The Yauatcha mixology program offers a wide selection of cocktails using fresh ingredients, homemade purees, foams, fruits, herbs and spices that pay a modern homage to Asian flavours. The cocktails are designed to complement Yauatcha’s vast range of dim sum. The mixology philosophy is predominatly divided into citrus and aperitif, fruity and fresh, aged and experimental.These drinks have distinctive citrus components that bring forth the aperitif element. Since the ethos of Yauatcha lies in tea, it makes for an important ingredient.
Where Yauatcha, Raheja Tower, BKC
When 12 noon to 1 am
Contact 09222222800

Fuel Up Brunch
This Sunday, January 6, JW Café, the all-day dining restaurant at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, has arranged a brunch to help you keep up with your New Year resolutions. The Fuel Up Brunch includes healthy SuperFoods as well as comfort foods including an avocado  smoothie,  nuts, sprouts and seed bars,  Japanese Bento boxes, kebab parathas, as well as Biryani, Kolkata Kathi Roll and  Croque Monsieur. Guests can also pick from the Italian, Thai, Japanese, Continental and Indian stations.
Where JW Café
When  January 6, 12:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Price `2,900 plus taxes per person
Alcohol-inclusive `4,000 plus taxes and champagne-inclusive `4,800 plus taxes pp

Pizza birthdays
Parents now have a fun destination at 1441 Pizzeria where they can host birthday parties for their children who can make their own kid-size wood-fired pizzas. Add-ons include roast potatoes, smoked cheesy dough balls and a refreshing beverage to make one very happy party! All this at `195 per child.  1441 Pizzeria also arranges for magicians, clowns; face painting and more as per your request.
Where 1441 Pizzeria, all outlets
When Ongoing

Delicious Detox
Toast & Tonic: East Village Style, international restaurant and bar (a part of the Olive group), motivates you to start 2019 right, with ‘Delicious Detox. This 14-day special menu from January 1-14 offers a selection of healthy yet delicious dining options, smoothies and non-alcoholic drinks. Chef Chirag, Senior Sous Chef, Toast & Tonic, has curated the menu to kickstart your January resolutions. The menu consists of simple, lean and high protein and un-processed ingredients. The regular selection of small and big plates is there too!
Where Toast & Tonic, BKC, Mumbai
When January 1-14, 2019 for lunch and dinner

Happiness in a Bowl
Toast Bistro Bar, Andheri East has a selection of hearty soups for winter evenings. Enjoy a wholesome bowl of soup or just a hot winter cocktail at the open terrace. The signature broths to try out are, Cream of Pistachio and Broccoli Soup (A warm creamy soup with a hint of nuts) and Spicy Seafood Soup (Asian spiced soup with crab meat and prawns). A few other hot bowls to try out are, Truffle Scented Mushroom Broth and Tomato and Basil Soup. Also try winter special cocktails like Hot Toddy or Mulled Wine.
Where Toast Bistro and Bar, Andheri East
When Ongoing, all season, 11 am to 1 am
Contact 70459 02799

Festive Menu
PA PA YA brings the season’s favorite with a special festive menu that includes sushi, dimsums, tapas, staples, desserts and mains. The six-course menu consists of vegetarian options which include Avocado Mango Sushi, Crispy lotus stem, Ching Mai Curry. For non-vegetarians, there will be  Carbon Sushi, Grilled Chicken, Avocado Tacos, Yaki Udan Noodles and more.
Where All PA PA YA outlets
When Upto January 15
Price `3300 per person (Veg and Non Veg)


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