New Delhi: In a new venture with scientists at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR) has developed an aquaculture system that allows farming of fish with limited use of water and also enables reuse of the wastewater for irrigation purposes. Officials at the NIRDPR believe mechanisation will drive the country’s youth to take up agriculture.
“A technology-backed smart farming solution will not only reduce harmful effects of water-intensive practices but also encourage the youth to undertake farming as an occupation,” W R Reddy, director general of NIRDPR told ThePrint.
Scientists at CUSAT have developed this smart aquaculture system that will help farmers raise different varieties of fish throughout the year using lesser water to produce a higher yield. Called the ‘Backyard Re-circulatory Aquaculture System’ it consists of a tank having a capacity of 90,000 litres – inside which there are three cages of 30,000 litres each.
“It is similar to an aquarium. The cages are pumped with oxygen to allow high density stocking of fish in a smaller space,” Ramesh Sakthivel, associate professor at NIRDPR.
With low water requirement and high-density stocking of fish in different cages, this system enables flexibility in managing a fishpond.
The NIRDPR has set up a prototype system at its Rural Technology Park in Telangana, with funding from the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB), to demonstrate its functioning and provide necessary training to farmers, self-help groups (SHGs) and youth.
What is Backyard Re-circulatory Aquaculture System?
It is an aquaculture tank that uses biofilters to purify water and reduce ammonia toxicity from fish waste. Once disposed, this water can also be used for agricultural purposes. In regular fish farming, water from the ponds or tanks need to be be completely pumped out and thrown away since it gets saturated with toxic ammonia.
The NFDB will provide up to 60 per cent subsidy for farmers to set up this new intensive fish culture pond in their farms – a move that aims to raise agricultural income. Farmers can expect an average monthly return of Rs 25,750 by using this system, NIRDPR said in a statement.
“The cost of setting up one system is about Rs 5.6 lakh and an additional amount of Rs 1.4 lakh is required for fingerlings, feed, electricity and other items. The NFDB will provide 60 per cent of the initial capital to women as well as SC and ST farmers. For others, NFDB will provide 40 per cent of the funding,” Sakthivel said.
Fish varieties such as Tilapia, Pangasius, Murrel and Pearlspot can be raised in this system.
The aquaculture system can also significantly benefit farmers living in low water availability areas and those who are located further away from coastal regions.
Driving the youth towards farming
The NIRDPR has been establishing modules for its training programme on the aquaculture system in order to promote it as a sustainable mode of income.
“CUSAT has been successfully operating a number of such ponds in Kerala. They are also starting installations in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The system can also be used in drought-prone areas where a farmer can supplement her or his income with little use of water and inland fisheries,” Sakthivel said.
He also added how making the youth return to agriculture is a “big challenge now”. “This system is very easy. We have been maintaining it for the past two-three months,” he said.
Technical supervision is required during construction of this system and plans are afoot to train fishery graduates for the purpose.
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