Polytunnels, also known as Polythene covered tunnels, are tunnel-like structures made with steel and a single piece of plastic stretched over the curved supports. These semi-circular or square tunnels work with a similar mechanism as that of Greenhouse: heat incoming into the polytunnel is higher than the heat escaping. As a result, polytunnels enable a wide variety of off-season farming options.
Polytunnels can be built according to the size and space requirement. With proper training and techniques, the tunnel structure can be sustainably constructed by anyone – even using bamboo. Furthermore, the covering plastic is durable for up to at least 4-5 years.
Plants in polytunnels are grown under controlled environments which can be adjusted depending on what you intend to grow. Variables like temperature, humidity, and ventilation can be altered by closing and opening of the manual vents. So, they can support vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, lettuce, peppers, cauliflowers, cucumbers and many more.
In the context of Nepal, polytunnels are gaining popularity – especially for tomato farming. This is the result of higher demand, productivity and profit from tomato production. According to a 2017 research, Nepal’s average tomato consumption was found to be 11.97Kg/person/year. A larger portion of this amount is still imported from India due to an insufficient in-country supply. Furthermore, the price of tomatoes soars during the off-seasons due to short supply.
Polytunnels are solving the problem both sides: they are assisting farmers with higher supply while meeting consumers’ cheaper demand. In fact, if an ample number of Nepali farmers switch to the modern polytunnel farming technique Nepal can make a good fortune out of vegetable export as well.
In some places of Nepal, Polytunnels are yielding earnings three times better than traditional farming. According to a case study, farmers are earning 200,000 rupees per month growing off-season vegetables. Hence, polytunnel farming has been transforming our rural farmers into successful businesspersons.
One of the big advantages of polytunnels includes the protection of plants from pests, rain, hail, frost and snow. Farmers don’t have to stress about extreme weather conditions that can potentially harm a large number of crops.
In past years, organizations like Raleigh International Nepal and CARE Nepal have done commendable jobs in different places of Nepal by teaching rural farmers in building polytunnels. They are setting an example for farmers who are toiling in their own soils and making good earnings as well.
Flourishing polytunnel business in Nepal still has a long way to go. However, opportunities seem promising. If the trend continues in upcoming years, we may see a wave of farmers, who may reshape our agriculture industry into a new boom of business.