IN: "Successful aquaponics farm could grow only niche products"

From time immemorial, cultivators have been growing a variety of flora in water for its vast resource of minerals which are conducive for the growth of aquatic plants. The process has acquired a new meaning with the advent of commercial ‘aquaponics’, which uses the goodness of water used by fish to grow crops, primarily green leafy vegetables.

The method is simple. A large tank is filled with water. In this, fish are bred in adequate numbers. The water, which becomes rich in ammonia and other minerals over time from the waste discharged by fish, is then used to grow plants without any interference with soil in a controlled environment. After the nutrients are absorbed by the plants, the water is ploughed back into the fish tank. This is a continuous process that goes on uninterrupted 24/7.

The fish, harvested after every six to nine months, make for an interesting by-product of this process, which also has a ready market and adds to revenue. “More than 95 per cent of the water is recycled through this process, while the earning comes from selling both, the fish and the vegetables grown purely in water,” says Anubhav Das, Founder and CEO, Red Otter Farms.

Red Otter is a 10,000 square-foot pure aquaponics farm nestled in Nainital in Uttarakhand. Producing around 150 kilogram of green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, Swiss Chard, and Kale, among other plants per week, Das plans to expand the farm to 35,000 square feet soon. He says in some parts of the world people have started growing exotic veggies such as rosemary, pine, mint and even tomatoes through ‘aquaponics’.

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