Published: 24th October 2017
From coding to a green life, this former techie talks of a farming method that is fresh and home-friendly
Aquaponic farming is a type of farming that combines aquaculture and hydroponics (cultivating plants in water)
Nizar Mohamed had always desired to become a farmer but as is the trend in India, he landed in an IT firm in the United States. However, a lesson in aquaponics farming reminded him of his calling and grew further when he decided to experiment it on his own.
“I always wanted to do farming. My friend, Dinesh Anand and I have been talking about farming for years. Since I was in US and he was in India, we never gave it a full try” starts Nizar.
“When I first learned about aquaponics I was curious to try it out. So I started with a small fish tank inside my home and grew herbs like mint and tomatoes. I could see the growth rate was much higher than plants grown normally. So I decided to take the setup to my backyard,” explains Nizar. In his backyard, Nizar setup a 125 liter tank with at least 10 to 20 fishes and grew lettuce, kale, tomatoes and chillies.
“I did not expect it to work out, but it did and we got a good produce,” he mentions. The impressive result led to his comeback to India and start aquaponic farming in the city with his friend Dinesh.
Soil is not a requirement in aquaponics. The setup has five tanks: rearing tank (where the fish is grown and fed), settling basin (to collect unwanted food and other particles), Biofilter (where the nitrification bacteria can grow), grow bed (where the plants are grown), Sump (where the water flows through and can be recycled back to the rearing tank). “The basic principle in this setup is fish excretes ammonia which is a source of nitrite and nitrate. Plants need these gases for growth. So the bacterias in the biofilter help to convert ammonia into nitrite and nitrate which is absorbed by the plants as nutrients. The more you feed the fish, the more excrete is released to convert into nutrients for the plants,” explains Nizar.
He also adds that one needs to be careful in not letting ammonia to enter the rearing tank. It also allows the water to be recycled back into the rearing tank. “Currently I have an acre of farm and we need less than 10,000 liters of water,” says Nizar. When he first decided to move to India, one of the biggest challenges he faced regarding the set up was to understand the climate and the type of crops that can be grown. “The climate here is very different and is accompanied by frequent power cuts. So, to identify solutions to these problems and also to figure out what type of plants can be grown was a difficult task” he says recalling the initial days his new profession. Now, Nizar grows three types of greens, tomatoes and chillies.
“We currently do on demand harvest and supply only on reference” he adds. He sells three bunch of greens, a kilogram of tomatoes and 300 grams of chilli for Rs 150. H adds that anybody can set up aquaponic farms at home, on their rooftops or the garden.
“I want to stress on three things to people who are interested in organic farming, that they should know where the food is grown, how the food is grown and finally how to grow your own food. This way they know what they eat and don’t fall prey to false lables,” he ends.