Monthly Archives: November 2018

  • Aquaponics - for a sustainable future

    The challenges and potential of aquaponics production is still an unexplored area of study in India. Aquaponics is a combined method of farming by bringing aquaculture and hydroponics together in a single system. There has been a positive change in Aquaponics farming as the popularity of the system increased in the last few years in our country.

    By 2050, the world population is estimated to increase to 9 billion. The expansive numbers of people are expecting to rely on agricultural sector including farming, fisheries, woodcrafts, and livestock. Natural calamities and crisis affect millions of people who depend on the primary sector. For reducing poverty and attaining food security, expansion of agriculture sector is the most efficacious means. Small farmers are the major contributors to the World's food, but they are the poorest people in the developing countries. 70 per cent of the people living in the rural area depends on Agriculture even today, however, one-fourth of the population find it difficult to meets their daily nutritional requirement.

    Indian farmers are exposed to many challenges resulting from low agricultural growth, sustainability concerns, and land degradation, as a large area of farmland has become infertile due to the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides. Conventional farming methods because of large usage of fertilizers for growing crops degraded the quality of the soil and local water sources. It is high time to overcome these challenges through innovative farming methods. The technological and scientific advancement in the field of agriculture has opened a new era for the design and development of modern devices for plant health monitoring. Aquaponics farming is a solution to overcome some of these challenges to an extent if the farmers are able to maintain the system with proper care and technical support.

    Although aquaponics has received considerable attention in foreign countries, Indian farmers are relatively new to this system. However, there has been a gradual increase in awareness of this system over the past few years in the country.

    Aquaponics is an integrated method of growing fishes and crops in a re-circulating system. In other words, it is an integrated system of re-circulating aquaculture and hydroponics in one production system. Water from the fish tank that contains fish excretes cycles through grow beds where plants are grown, which is nutritious for the plant's growth and plants' filter the water flowing into the fish tank to keep the fish healthy. The main elements for aquaponics are the fish tank and grow beds with a small pump that filters water between the two. The success of an aquaponics system requires proper maintaining of the plants, fish, and nutrients that gives a well-balanced and interdependent relationship. Aquaponics farming is suitable for farmers who have fewer land holdings and in areas where water is scarce. Crops grown in aquaponics have less damage and are able to grow in denser climate.

    In India, the land holdings used for agriculture are limited to less than 0.2 hectares. As a result, the small-scale agriculturists aim to maximize production within the minimum resources. Growing awareness of consumers on the excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides are leading to a trend that favours organic farming. The interest of the young generation to produce vegetables and other regional cultivations on a small scale within the available land area has further boosted the scope of organic farming. Organic farming is a concept with considerable thrust on integrated systems wherein a major part of inputs required for farming is raised within the system. Integrated farming uses wastages and sub-products of a particular cultivation for the use of other. It usually includes growing and breeding of cattle, duck, fish etc. This is a globally accepted technology and adapted to a greater extent by the Indian farming community. Within the available space that includes terrace and balconies of apartments, Indian households have started taking up aquaculture in small tanks along with vegetables in separate grow beds. The method of recycling waste water and making it available for further use has increased its demand all over this time. Integrating hydroponics (the method of growing plants without soil) and aquaculture has been given more importance in the current agricultural scenario.

    As the aquaponics system has many advantages and increases the productivity within a short time period, it has gained popularity in several states of India in recent times. State Fisheries Departments are promoting aquaponics by providing training programmes and technical support to the farmers. It is an effective means of growing food that helps to maintain sustainability, as it requires only 10 per cent of water and no use of chemical fertilizers as compared to the traditional farming method.

    Aquaponics as a commercial venture is evolving in India. People are discovering it as a promising avenue to rely upon as a dependable source of livelihood. Further, small and medium-sized units are more efficient in managing costs and realizing higher net income per unit area compared to large units. However, a variety of factors such as lack of training, inadequate technical guidance, ignorance of market pricing and uncertainties about the market demand of the product, are some of the reasons for incurring losses. These challenges can be overcome by providing technical sessions about the working of the system and by making consumers aware of the benefits of organic products. In Hydrilla workshops, apart from taking participants through Aquaponics farming methods, fish and plant health management, system design aspects, we take through the analysis of marketing strategies like identifying right crops based on market demand, direct selling to neighborhood consumers, indirect selling to wholesalers, restaurants and grocery stores.

    In general, the success of aquaponics farming relies upon the local markets, climatic and geographical conditions. An important feature of aquaponics systems is their ability to reduce the local impacts that arise from the nutrient discharges. Due to the dynamic characteristics of the aquaculture industries, it is expanding rapidly in recent times. Hence, more emphasis should be given on high productivity, intensive systems with similar low global impacts rather than focusing completely on the reduction of local impacts.

    Aquaponics has immense potential to be the forerunner in the next phase of sustainable aquaculture.

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