22-11-2017 12:00 PM
Lathika Saju | My Indian Dream
Cochin airport takes up organic farming
We feel proud to know that the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) is the first airport in the world to be fully powered by solar energy. The 12 MWp Solar PV Plant occupies 52 acres of vacant area near the cargo complex. The project was very well appreciated nationwide for its use of renewable source of energy. However, it also faced criticism for not using the land for any productive purpose.
That is when CIAL decided to adopt the concept of organic farming utilising the vacant areas adjacent and in between the panels. The farming was initiated in December 2015 as a pilot run in an area of 58 cents. So far, the pilot project has yielded 400 kilograms of Ladies Finger, 400kg of Long Beans, 425kg of Blonde Cucumber, 2184kg of Ash Gourd and 378kg of Pumpkin. Vegetables such as tomato, ginger, turmeric etc. were also cultivated. The project became a huge success and subsequently, it was decided to bring the entire area of the solar plant under cultivation in different phases.
Currently, around 3 acres of land has been identified for farming where additional crops such as green chilli, snake gourd, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, brinjal etc. are also being cultivated. The vegetables grow very well with the natural sunlight. The rich harvest is devoid of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides.
Apart from the rich, organic yield, the farming also helps in arresting excessive weed growth between the panels that often cause shade on the panels leading to the reduction of solar power generation. On the other hand, the planting of vegetables cools the panels and increase power generation.
This is a first of its kind initiative that has met with remarkable success. The authorities are now planning to commercially market the products. Managing Director, V J Kurian informed that they have decided to go for modern agricultural practices besides seeking co-operation of leading agricultural research centres. There are plans to implement drip irrigation for climbing plants requiring water on a daily basis. For others, water used to clean solar panels (over 46, 000) will be used. Growing of plants will also ensure the panels are dust free.
According to CIAL sources, initially, the organically-cultivated vegetables will be made available to its staff and passengers only through outlets set at the airport. Gradually, they plan to extend the sale of vegetables to outlets in the malls and supermarkets in the city under the brand name of ‘CIAL Organic.’
Thus the company is not only saving crores of rupees in terms of power expenditure by harnessing solar energy but also generating additional income by the cultivation and sale of organic vegetables by making optimum use of the land between the solar panels. This amazing and resourceful model set up by the Cochin Airport certainly needs to be emulated.