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Aquaponics: the future of farming?

n August 15, the birthday of Sri felt this kind of system was
Aurobindo, Akash, Monica and much more interesting and
Aurovici hosted an Open House sustainable because, com-
at the new Aquaponics site. The pared to a conventional
operation is located near the Hydroponic system, Aqua-
Community of Rève behind the electric bike ponics does not need chemi-
workshop, and was buzzing with a number of cal nutrients for the plants as
people enquiring about this new method of the fish waste provides these
growing plants and raising fish. The young trio nutrients. The bacteria in the
were meeting and greeting the curious and grow beds convert the
answering many questions. nitrites into nitrates, which
The operation took seed when Akash, an the plants then consume as
Aurovilian by birth, went to Discipline farm to their main nutrient source.
speak to Gino about the Hydroponic system He decided to set up an
they had set-up there. After the visit Akash operation in the backyard of
began research on the soilless method of grow- his home. It was a small
ing and came across a link to Aquaponics. He pilot project using the water
from the ant-channel sur-
rounding his house. He pur-
chased some pipes, valves Visitors to the Open House see the fledgling aquaponics operation
and fittings, along with a
pump to circulate the water from the ant-chan- their own fish food. This not only cuts costs, it ing about what grows well, monitoring the pH
nel to the plants. The project wasn’t very suc- also ensures the food is natural and organic. of the water, keeping the fish alive, coming up
cessful due to the lack of nutrients. This led to It was a very intense two-and-a-half with organic recipes for the fish food, and,
further experimentation. The second project months. The design needed to suit the site so it most importantly, keeping their sense of
involved buying some tanks for the fish instead had to be modified, leaks from the first row of humour.
of using the water from the ant-channel. This grow beds led to experimenting with different The motivation driving these young
proved to be more successful as it provided sealants, and over a hundred fish died for rea- Aurovilians is “growing fish and food organi-
better yields. sons they are still trying to figure out. It could cally using sustainable methods.” Aurovici’s
One evening while they were having din- be related to the water or the stress in trans- dream is to set up a few systems in the
ner with Aurovici (another Aurovilian who porting them. The tank was emptied, cleaned Residential Zone, “a community garden that is
was born and raised in Auroville) he was talk- and refilled with water and a new stock of fish easy to maintain, organic and available to
ing about the project and it was suggested they arrived. So far everything is going well. The everyone”
partner up and submit a proposal to the Farm second rows of beds are larger, slightly higher Aquaponics is the way of the future. Are
Group for funding to expand the operation. and constructed from cement instead of granite you ready to catch the wave?
This was the spark that Akash needed to move slabs sealed together. This has proved to be Elaine
to another level. They designed the system, more cost effective. It’s part of the process of
located the site, wrote and submitted the pro- trial and error. For more information contact
posal to the project coordination team. They This new way of farming is being intro-
received the funds and in May started building duced and implement-
the system. ed around the world
The goal was to have the system in opera- and the team are learn-
tion for the Open House on the birthday of Sri ing quickly about What is aquaponics?
Aurobindo. They selected and purchased equipment, material
equipment, designed and constructed the sys- and methods that are
tem, installed fencing for security, and trans- best to use in South
ported the fish. They want to the operational India. They also have
Monica inspects the plants cost to remain low so they decided to make the challenge of learn-


Better relations with the villages

he recommendation of the Integral with the villages, making sure that the villages prosper and
Sustainability Platform that Auroville establish progress along with Auroville, while at the same time
Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics. In
better relations with the villages has been wel- accepting the inevitable diversity in human unity.
aquaponics, you grow fish and plants together in an inte-
comed by Auroville’s Village Action. Those Aurovilians may see the village-Auroville relationship as grated soilless system. The fish waste provides food for the
who work for Village Action are aware that part of the experiment in human unity; but for the villagers, plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water
improving the relationship is of paramount importance; but the relationship is linked primarily to their livelihoods, their the fish live in.
they always found a significant lack of response to the issue, families, and to education. Aquaponics produces safe, fresh, organic fish and vegeta-
both in official and popular circles in Auroville. To improve the relationship with the villages, Village bles. Aquaponics can be used to sustainably raise fresh fish
Yet, a rather large number of Auroville units (32!) relate Action proposes that joint village-Auroville development and vegetables for a family, to feed a village or to generate
to the villages. Their activities fall into five main categories: councils are revived or created and that an independent body a profit in a commercial farming venture. The benefits of
education, environment and ecology, health, livelihood, and is formed that can deal with village-Auroville conflicts. auquaponics are:
social mobilization. Areas which are not yet developed are Other proposals are that Auroville studies the possibilities  Reduces water use
social enterprise and livelihood (creating production units for leasing of Auroville land or for joint land management  Low cost after the initial set-up
that are economically self-sustaining while being socially and helping the villagers develop organic and low irrigation  No chemicals
useful); organic farming; water conservation; and the pro- farming. Proposals were also made to organize collective  Reduces erosion by eliminating the need to plough the
duction of low-cost ecological technologies that are viable transport for villagers working in Auroville units; that soil
for rural communities, such as smokeless chullas and water Auroville units lend their expertise for creating village Lower operational costs compared to conventional
filters. enterprises; and that Auroville sponsor community centres farming
The villagers appreciate Auroville’s work opportunities in the surrounding villages in order to increase cultural  Low maintenance
 Grow plants and fish all year round
and the peaceful environment. However, there is little exchanges between Auroville and the villages. Lastly, pro-
 Sustainable way to farm and ease of use
understanding of the creative schools Auroville runs for vil- posals were put forward that Auroville's health and eco-ser-
 System can be set-up anywhere
lage children – villagers appreciate most the conventional vices would help in common projects for waste management
 Organic and natural
approach of Kuilapalyam School Trust. Villagers complain and pollution control, as well as health education, promoting
There have been many studies into the types of plants that
about the difficulty of communicating with Auroville; the traditional healing practices, and counselling support for can be grown in an Aquaponics system, including leafy
way land is purchased; about the erosion of traditional cul- women. green vegetables, vine plants, fruit and fruit trees, flowers
ture; and the confusing differences in labour policies Village Action emphasised that Tamil Aurovilians and fodder. The cost and turnover time of each crop varies
between Auroville workplaces. should play a major role in improving Auroville-village dramatically, with leafy greens being able to be produced in
Village Action has the clear perception that partnership relationships. It also called on Auroville’s apex groups, like a few months, while root-based plants and fruit trees take
in development, not charity, is the only viable approach for the Working Committee, the Budget Coordination considerably longer.
neighbourly relations and must become fundamental to all Committee and L’Avenir d'Auroville and on all Aurovilians, Tilapia is the most common fish used in Aquaponics sys-
Auroville outreach work to the villages. Village Action pro- to give top priority to village relations. tems. The system in Auroville uses carp. However, most
poses that Auroville focus on developing a positive synergy Bhavana fish are suitable. The number of fish will depend on the size
of the system.

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