Cherai embraces aquaponics, motivates others

Wish to grow vegetables and fish but don’t have the space for it? More than 200 families in Cherai, Ernakulam, have found the answer by implementing aquaponics.

Published: 15th September 2022 06:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th September 2022 06:19 AM   |  A+A-

Cherai residents with the ash gourd they cultivated

Express News Service

KOCHI: Wish to grow vegetables and fish but don’t have the space for it? More than 200 families in Cherai, Ernakulam, have found the answer by implementing aquaponics. Aquaponics couples aquaculture (raising aquatic animals in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water). In it, nutrient-rich aquaculture water is fed to hydroponically grown plants.

Cherai embraced it as part of the initiative launched by Pallipuram Service Co-operative Bank (PSCB) in 2006 in association with Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), said K V Abraham, president, PSCB Ltd. As per MPEDA’s record of 2006, Cherai is the first aquaponics village in India.

“From 2006 till 2019, over 200 families were involved in aquaponics. Right from the start, many showed interest in this type of farming which would provide vegetables and fish they needed,” Abraham said.“However, many quit when Covid struck. Now, around 70 families are engaged in aquaponics. We are taking steps to revive the project and aim to rope in all 10,000 families in the village. We have restarted its training,” he said.Cherai’s experimentation and success of aquaponics spread, attracting people from the state and the country, said Abraham.

‘People from other states come to learn aquaponics’

K V Abraham said the farmers faced some technical issues regarding subsidy on the juveniles of Gift Tilapia. “The issue has now been sorted and juveniles (up to 500 numbers) will be provided to the farmers for free by the MPEDA,” said Abraham. The bank will provide loans to farmers who are interested in aquaponics.

“The loan amount starts from Rs 15,000. This is the smallest unit. We encourage people to go for domestic units that will cater to the fresh vegetable and fish needs of the families. These units are viable and can be easily maintained,” he said.

Kishore Kumar, a retired forest official said this method of farming is eco-friendly and will provide chemical-free food for families.“I was one of the first in Cherai to take to aquaponics,” he said.  Kishore is not only an ardent aquaponics farmer but also a trainer and instructor in the field. “I take classes in aquaponics. People from other districts and states come here to attend classes and a lot of them have started farming too,” he said.

Kishore said the units set up at the homes in Cherai can grow up to 100 fish.“This is high-density farming. A single unit can harvest around 30kg of Gift Tilapia after six months. All we need is a suitable space like a veranda or terrace. Some units have harvested around 90kg of vegetables,” he said. He said the trick is to set up small units rather than commercial ones. “Many who were forced to give up aquaponics were the ones who went for commercial units. When the pandemic struck, they couldn’t find takers for the produce,” he said.



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