The nutrition for the plant growth comes from 8,000

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The nutrition for the plant growth comes from 8,000 A mid stories of agrarian crisis everywhere, Anubhav Das has a happy tale to tell. The founder of Red Otter Farms in Kotabagh village at the foothills of Nainital has no problem selling 125-150 kgs of green exotic vegetables he produces every day, that too at a premium. His clients include Taj Hotel, Modern Bazaar and families in South Delhi and Gurgaon. 

If his story sounds different at a time when farming is becoming unsustainable, thanks to falling yields, increasing costs and low prices along with water scarcity and soil degradation, his farm looks different, too. 

Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, tomato, arugula and lettuce grow on a one-foot bed of flowing water — and, no soil — in a specially designed 10,000-sq-ft greenhouse at Red Otter Farms. 

There is no need to spray insecticide or pesticide, or use fertilisers. 

The nutrition for the plant growth comes from 8,000 freshwater fish — rohus and catlas — cultivated in separate water tanks inside the greenhouse. 

Das uses what is called aquaponics to grow the leafy vegetables. 

The method combines aquaculture — cultivating fish and other aquatic animals in tanks — with hydroponics, where plants are cultivated in water. The water from the fish tank is pumped onto the beds where plants grow. While the fish excretions provide nutrients for the plants, the clean water is recirculated back to the fish tank. While the initial cost to set up the facility would be high, the recurring cost is low in aquaponics and there are two sources of revenue: fish and vegetables. Moreover, the water requirement is as less as a tenth of that in conventional agriculture. 

With increasing demand for his produce, Das is now expanding his facility to nearly 35,000 sq ft. 

In Bengaluru, Vijay Krishnamoorthy of Madhavi Farms has been doing aquaponic farming for the past one year on his 20-acre farm in the heart of the city. 

The benefits are immense, said Krishnamoorthy. Aquaponics is designed to provide the plants with maximum possible nutrients, in ideal growing conditions, which results in multi-fold growth, sometime 6-8 times more than open field farming, he said. 

Being located in the city, he saves on transportation cost, and also on electricity as his facility is largely powered by solar power. 

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By BOA Bureau