When I was 5 years old, my parents decided to move to a small town of Salatiga, Central Java, where we could freely breathe fresh air especially around the paddy fields that also could be found almost in every corner of the town. My Dad told me it was the scenery he hardly saw while we were in Jakarta, and the farmers need to transport the agricultural products to bigger cities. Even though that time eco-friendly agriculture practices were things we were not familiar with, but as a child I was familiar with spending time sitting by the paddy fields, looking at farmers ploughing the field with buffaloes. We were in tune with nature, knowing where our food served on the table came from. This is the kind of ‘luxury’ I wish my future children would experience.
Moving forward to the present days, I am glad I’ve made some good friends during my school years in Salatiga. I recently figured out that Aditya Yoga, one of my friends since primary school is now an urban farmer focusing on hydroponic system and successfully turned his project trial to a promising business, Bale Hidroponik. As an expectant Mom, the quest for finding nutritious and delicious plants that are pesticide-free is a never-ending journey. Knowing that one of my friends is on developing this business is definitely an answer to my problem!.
More than just a big trend in home gardening and farming, hydroponic technology diminishes problems in the soil that cause plants to die and the struggle to find suitable green spaces—yes, because one does not need any soil to grow plants by applying hydroponic technology.
“Land is limited nowadays, and it is becoming more and more scarce while the demand for food is on the other hand, increasing. Agricultural practitioners have tried their best to find alternatives to overcome the issue. One of the most feasible alternatives is hydroponic farming”, Yoga, the nickname he prefers to be called, introduced the system.
Hydroponic derives from two terms, hydro means water and ponic is a word that originally refers to media. Thus, the main principle of hydroponic technology is to substitute the initial media of planting—which is soil—for water. I wondered from where the plants would obtain the nutrients in the absence of soil. “That’s the most interesting part of hydroponics!”, so yes, the discussion even got more interesting too. Yoga continued, “In the absence of soil, we substitute it with soil-less media. In other words, we create a controlled environment.
Traditionally, we would pick soil with a high amount of nutrient, because the soil is the ‘kitchen’ where the plants process their food and get their nutrients from. But in hydroponics, we have to substitute the role of ‘kitchen’ without going through a prolonged process; as long as the plants can obtain nutrients, we are happy. Thus, we often use AB mix fertilizer to fulfil the nutrients needed for the plants to grow well. So this is what we meant by controlling the environment.” Turned out this process even gives another benefit. Hydroponic plants are capable to grow up to 30% quicker than conventionally grown plants due to the availability of nutrients that enables the roots to absorb more of it.
In 2017, Yoga and his two friends initiated Bale Hidroponik that focuses on hydroponic production and installation, but not only that; they also encourage an educational approach. This business enables layers of society to participate and get involved, including school-age children since Bale Hidroponik is open for a farm tour to schools and youth groups where they can grow awareness and learn about the hydroponics directly from the experts. I nodded my head listening to Yoga’s explanation and hoping the next generation would develop numerous innovations for a better life like Yoga and his friends did in the agriculture industry. I get to admit, since my mom is a career woman, she was not always around to cook when I was a kid. But she still managed to understand the nutritional needs of her little family, therefore she could explain every meal and food products that were being served on our table. Urban farming nowadays makes it possible for the parents of tomorrow to actively support their kids to be involved from the very first phase of growing agricultural products until the moment we consume them all at home.
Better than my initial understanding of the school visits to Bale Hidroponik, Yoga explained that school-age children would not only learn about urban farming there but also about collaboration and sharing. How come? “I have come to realize, the two core issues in the agriculture sector that we all can take the lessons from: sometimes you can plant, but you can’t sell, or the other way around, you can sell, but you can’t plant. However, in urban farming where we can grow the plants in a limited space, we will be more encouraged to collaborate with others by sharing both the product and the market, especially when the hydroponic practices are done in a communal garden or area. It is very efficient,” Yoga clarified.
To date, the target market of Bale Hidroponik remains the same for the past two years, namely restaurants and modern market. Even though they admitted that the resources they have today are not yet sufficient for them to facilitate end-users as their target, there are at least five restaurants and five supermarkets in total they regularly supply their hydroponic products to—which is promising.
“Persistence is the key. Agriculture is an applied science, and in order to consistently apply the science effectively, we have to go through the process. We have been through a lot in Bale Hidroponik. When we started off this business, we were ready to take risks as we realize it is very common in the business realm; for instance, we once produced an abundant harvest yet the market was nowhere to be found. Now that we are developing, we choose to pay particular attention to collaboration with other hydroponic or urban farmers,” he said.