Report by Pratap Pradhan, Bhubaneswar: ICAR-Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture has designed and developed a pilot scale Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) aquaponics system under its All India Coordinated Research Project on Plasticulture Engineering & Technology (AICRP on PET) centre located at Bhubaneswar. The system comprises of fish culture tank, submersible water pump, trickling filter, four NFT grow pipes each having length of 3 m and 9 perforations (3-inch diameter each for holding net pots) for growing plants. Using this system, various plants like poi saga (Basella alba), marigold (Tagetes erecta), bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria), lady’s finger (Abelmoschus esculentus) and long bean (Vigna unguiculata) along with different fish species grown in the Kausalyaganga campus of ICAR-CIFA. The combination of Climbing perch (Anabas testudineus) fish and poi saga in the system showed 34 percent higher growth in fishes in aquaponics tank compared to control tank due to improved water quality by removal of dissolved nutrients by the plants. The combination of tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) fish and marigold plants were shown yielding 450 marigold flowers from 36 plants in the system in 3 months. The system can be used in the rooftop and by this urban population can get easy access to natural foods and recreation. Till today, three experiments have successfully been conducted in the system developed at ICAR-CIFA.
Aquaponics is the sustainable and lucrative way of food production method in which aquaculture and hydroponics is combined in a desirable manner for efficient use of water, nutrients and space. The system is designed to use excess nutrients from aquaculture for growing agriculture crops for having synergistic effect on both crop and fish. The ammonia of the fish culture water is transformed to nitrite and finally oxidized to nitrate by nitrifying microbes in the bio-filter and then passed through the root zone of the plant. Nitrate is not only non-toxic to fish but also a vital nitrogenous fertilizer for the plants. The plants maintained water quality by absorbing the dissolved nutrients from the water and make it suitable for fish production. The research team is working on balancing nutrient production in fish culture tank and uptake of these by plants to optimize the production efficiency. The team of scientists namely Mr. K Anantharaja, Dr BC Mohapatra, Dr NK Barik, Dr BR Pillai and Dr JK Sundaray are involved in developing a commercially viable model of aquaponics system considering the future scenario of land and water scarcity in India.