What exactly is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). It works so efficiently because of the recirculating water system. Fish waste provides all the nutrients that plants need to flourish, so the water from the fish tanks gets filtered to the plants. The plants then clean the water and this gets sent back to the fish.
Is it new?
Well, in mainstream terms yes. Dr James Rakocy and his team at the University of the Virgin Islands spent 30 years (from 1980) developing aquaponic technology to how we use it today.
However soilless farming has a long (but largely forgotten) history. There is evidence to show that Ancient Aztec, Egyptian and Chinese civilizations all used a system of growing plants without soil, above fish.
Is aquaponics a viable business opportunity?
Yes. There are so many benefits to aquaponics. After the cost of the initial set-up is out the way, there is very little financial input required – the system largely runs on its own, and only needs someone to oversee it. Therefore overheads are very low – long man hours and expensive fertilizers are just not necessary!
Who will buy my produce?
There is an increasing demand for organic and good quality produce not only from general consumers but also restaurants and hotels that often require unusual, out-of-season and non-native ingredients. These can all be grown in an aquaponics system. Provided people need to eat, an aquaponics grower will always be in business!
What are the benefits to me?
Once the system is good-to-go it is very cheap to run. An aquaponics system grows fruit, vegetables and herbs at roughly twice the rate that they grow normally (in soil), so as a business owner you will have a high turnover. A large amount of crops can be grown in much smaller areas (so owning large areas of land is not a requirement), and uses only 10% of the water that normal farming gets through.
Sounds great, where do I start?
Aquaponics in Indiaspecializes in giving future aquaponics entrepreneurs the right tools to start their business and make it a success. Feel free to get in touch to discuss any queries, or sign up for consultancy or a class.
Where should I set up my aquaponics system?
This depends on the scale you wish to operate. Large companies may choose to set up a big, commercial system, whereas small-business owners who are new to aquaponics will probably opt for a smaller ‘back yard’ system. This doesn’t necessarily need to be in a rural environment. In the West, aquaponics has made news for its ability to grow a large number of crops in a relatively small area – even on urban rooftops! So if you wanted to, you could grow food right in the city centre.
Can the fish be eaten and sold too?
Yep. And they are completely organic as well as the plants. Fun fact: an aquaponics system HAS to be organic – due to the recirculating water, if you spray pesticides on the plants the water will become contaminated and the fish die. Simple.
So, what exactly do I need to do?
After working for about a month to set the system up and ensure everything is in place, you can largely sit back and relax. Maintenance will be your only responsibility. You will need to keep an eye on the water PH levels, check on the fish to make sure they are healthy and that there are no pests lurking. But apart from this – people will wonder how you are producing so much food because you never seem to be working!
Are there any downsides?
Not really, apart from the set-up costs. However once it is up and running you will be able to grow such a large quantity of food in short amounts of time that you will quickly make this money back.
I’ve heard there is a farming crisis in India, will this affect me?
Essentially no, and this is the beauty of aquaponics. Droughts have been disastrous for Indian farms in the past, but as an aquaponics system uses a mere 10% of the water that is traditionally used, this is not something you need to worry about. Poor soil quality has also caused problems for the traditional Indian farmer – but aquaponics is a soilless growing system, so this is not an issue.