Khetify is making ‘Farmville for Real’ by enabling millions of urban houses with rooftops and balconies to effortlessly grow their own organic vegetables.
Khetify is a brainchild of graduates from IIT Kharagpur, Ashoka University and NSIT. The co-founders are an eclectic mixed bag of farmers, serial entrepreneurs, sustainability researchers and urban designers who are committed to change the way India consumes vegetables and fruits.
Kaustubh Khare, an IIC Fellow and Young India Fellow introduces Khetify as — “We provide compost based, low-cost, modular and portable ‘khets’ that are watered using an IoT enabled drip irrigation system that can be controlled remotely. With our high yielding khets, every household can grow 700 kgs of organic vegetables every year in just 200 sq ft of space.”
Saahil Parekh, a sustainability enthusiast and an economist, adds, “Khetify is creating tangible impact in three ways: we help conserve 90% of the water as compared to conventional techniques, 65% of the waste is prevented from reaching the landfills, and households enjoy monetary savings of over Rs 40,000 annually on grocery expenditures. What’s more, we are tackling the nutritional deficiency prevalent in urban India by enabling cultivation of many traditional and nutritional vegetables like purslane.”
The techniques of farming are age old, but bringing them to urban areas requires suitably fortifying them with technology, and that is what Khetifywants to achieve. It wants urban farming to become an integral part of every Indian city, and to achieve that, it intends to make farming effortless and smart.
Khetify’s rooftop garden product consists of modular boxes, which they call ‘khets’, and customers can buy their product in sets of multiple khets. These khets are fully equipped with a mixture of soil and organic compost, a drip irrigation system and an SMS control unit which allows the customer to remotely water their khets. The team is currently enhancing the IoT technology to encompass soil nutrient analysis and micro-climate data in addition to moisture sensitivity.
Not only do they provide a state-of-the-art product that is capable of bringing the urban farming revolution, but are also cognizant of the fact that the urban customer might need to be prepared for a product like theirs. “Currently, a very small percentage of the urban population undertakes farming in their home. Over the years, urban areas have become associated with manufacturing, trade and hi-tech gizmos, while the rural areas are all about agriculture. In order to change this status quo, we will need to go beyond just providing khets to people. We believe that people will love our product once they form a bond with it. Until then, we want to help them in all the ways possible. We want to assist them in transforming into an urban community that has embraced agriculture,” says Saahil.
Along with their product, Khetify provides seeds and maintenance services which include an on-call plant doctor that is always available to help customers should they face any problem.
Need of the hour
Surveys estimate that, as of 2013, approximately 16,000 crore sqft of rooftop space was available in urban India. With a conservative assumption that only 10% of this is usable and is converted to virtual farm land, there is a potential monthly harvest of 50 lakh tonnes of vegetables which can support approximately 250 million people. India has set out an ambitious target of building 100 smart cities. With rapid urbanisation just beginning, the urban rooftop space is expected to triple to 48,000 crore sqft. Moreover, the idea has immense potential for transforming the carbon footprint of urban areas, given the additional composting benefits that would accrue with urban farming. Composting would result in monthly savings of waste being sent to landfills to the tune of 20 lakh tonnes and 40% reduction in municipal expenditures on logistics for waste handling.