Express News Service
BENGALURU: Soldiers posted in the harsh climes of Siachen can now look forward to eating fresh meals with scientists from the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) finding a novel way to grow micronutrients that replicate the original vegetables but can be eaten in fraction of the quantities and can be grown in extreme harsh environments, like in Siachen.
After taking 25 varieties of vegetables in a smaller edible form to the defence forces deployed in and around Ladakh, DIHAR scientists are now also looking at taking this technology to the masses to allow more nutrition through the technique called micro-farming. DIHAR, a laboratory under Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has developed a technology by which vegetables like radish, fenugreek, cabbage and broccoli, are grown in small edible plants called ‘plantlets’.
These plants are high in nutrition and replicate the taste of the original vegetable. Technical Officer Samar Bahadur Maurya and scientist Dr Anant Kumar Katiyal said the laboratory has developed seeds that can survive harsh climate in modular miniature greenhouse, and growing medium (a mixture of cocopeat, vermiculite and perlite) – which makes it possible to grow miniature plants even inside a bunker.
The modular miniature house, which has a humidity controller, can accommodate 30 trays and can produce up to 3 kg of vegetables, that need to be harvested and eaten within 10 days, said Dr Katiyal. The seeds are designed in a manner that 10 grams of the plantlets equals to the nutrition of 100 grams of the original vegetable.
Each person only requires 15 grams of the vegetables – which are actually food supplements – per day, he added. The micro-farming technology was developed after soldiers posted in Siachen got stale supplies from supply bases. It takes at least seven days to fly out vegetables from Chandigarh to the deposit area and up to a month to reach the soldiers posted in Siachen, said Maurya.