Building And Launching Our Integrated Aquaponics System

We are live! We are excited to share that The Venus Project Integrated Aquaponics System (#TVPIAS) in Kerala, India has now begun operation. The re-building works are completed, seeds planted, fish brought in, and the water with all the nutrients in it are now continuously cycling through the system. Here is how it looks right now:

Overall system

Overall system

Here are some of the purposes this system serves:

  • Feed about 130 local people with highly nutritious and healthy vegetables, fish and fruits.
  • Provide this food at an affordable price through a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) model where families subscribe to weekly deliveries of produce.
  • Use only a very small amount of land for growing the food.
  • Part of the area serves for experimentation, so that we continuously make improvements to what we do.

But there’s more.

Goals & Values

With everything we do, we strive to maintain a dynamic equilibrium within the ecosystem and for the surrounding larger ecosystem and bioregion as well. We place a high importance on the productivity of our system, so that it requires a very small amount of land to feed as many people as possible well. This can free up a lot of land to return back to nature. We also don’t use any pesticides or other poisonous and toxic compounds. We care about water conservation, too, so the whole system is designed to require just a small fraction of the water typically used in agriculture.

We also strive to enhance the wellbeing of people. For those working on the land and helping grow the food, we want to free them from highly repetitive tasks (for example, the irrigation is automated) so they have choice in how they want to contribute. For those eating what we grow, we want to provide them with food of high nutritional value and rich in beneficial microorganisms, free of antibiotics and heavy metals, to optimize their health and quality of life. We want to help them thrive. This also means having a closer relationship with them, whereby they constantly give us feedback on what they want to eat and we grow it.

We also want to consistently provide a plentiful food supply of optimum quality.

System Overview: How We Meet Our Goals

There are three main participants in the system: fish, plants and microbes. Let us look at each one.

Fish culture tank

Fish culture tank

This is the fish culture tank. It holds 60 m3 of water in which we have brought 6000 Nile Tilapia fish fingerlings (10 liters of water for each fish). We are currently planning to experiment with growing other fish and aquatic species.

Fish on day 7

Fish on day 7

The fish fingerlings will grow substantially in the coming months, but even now they play a central role in the system. Typically treated as waste to get rid of, the fish excreta constitute “pure gold” to us. In our system, the excreta is automatically picked up from the tank’s bottom 8 times every day and cycled through the plant beds. This abundant natural fertilization feeds the microbes which in turn feed the plants. The plants grow much faster and give higher yield than using traditional agriculture methods.

Plant biofilter beds

Plant biofilter beds

We have initially planted spinach in our 16 beds. The spinach will take 40 days to be ready for harvest, after which we will bring over a wide variety of plants that we currently have in our plant nursery. What we have planted and how it will be distributed in weekly subscriptions to locals will be the subject of another post.

You can’t see from this far away, but the sand is brimming with soil microbes. A healthy soil microbiome helps build a healthy plant microbiome which helps build a healthy human gut microbiome. One of our goals is to show this in action.

The Integrated Aquaponics System is all about the microbes. The whole thing works only because and by the activity of what we cannot directly observe. So, the ‘happier’ the little rascals are, and the more there is of them, the better. The more there are, the more fish and plants one can accommodate, the more stable, efficient, and productive one’s ‘system’ will be. This is the primary reason why we prefer sand as plant media. The larger the particle sizes, the less surface area is available for microbes to attach to.

Next Steps

Now that our Integrated Aquaponics System is live, we are looking forward to conducting more research on how to further expand its beneficial impact, to better understand how the various processes within the system interrelate, to increase efficiency and quality while maintaining an ecological equilibrium and help accelerate a larger positive change in the world. We would like to collaborate and partner with others who share similar goals. And we are looking for more people with great knowledge to join our team. Reach out to us on this page.

We are looking forward to giving you more updates on all of this. In the meantime, we welcome your feedback.

Post written by:

Vijayakumar Narayanan

Vijayakumar Narayanan (VKN)

VKN runs a private limited company (named startup of the year) in India backed by over 9 years of hands-on experience as an early adopter of Integrated Aquaponics System (IAS) methods. His focus areas include but are not limited to commercial farming, training, consulting and/or franchising IAS technology. For the last couple of years, he has been working with various teams in planning and designing the agricultural belt of an entire social complex of The Venus Project. His work on that included scalable IAS solutions for the execution of various agricultural methods and practices of cultivating the soil, producing crops and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products. Those efforts led to this current #TVPIAS project and VKN is now in charge of its implementation.

Borislav Zlatanov

Borislav Zlatanov

Borislav’s background includes IT engineering, teaching and neuroscience. He is interested in both design for radical effectiveness and a wider systems perspective across space and time. His work with The Venus Project over the years has been in diverse roles, often supporting the creation or automation of procedures and workflows in various teams. He has created a couple of web platforms which were inspired from integrating insights from disparate areas. For this project, one main purpose for him will be to support the integration of knowledge from a variety of fields into a single whole, out of which completely new insights can be born, as well as to support the spreading of this knowledge to people around the world.

Frixos Proedrou

Frixos Proedrou

Frixos is a nutritionist/dietitian specialized in both health and disease. He has done a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in this area, collaborated with several hospitals and universities, and worked professionally and conducted research with patients on nutrition and quality of life. He has also co-created simple nutrition analysis and menu creation tools. For the past decade he has shifted his focus on a more holistic approach towards nutrition, including botany, natural remedies and traditional medicine. He has experience in natural building, hydraulic engineering, composting, soil creation, companion planting, landscaping, water management, heating systems, geopolymer techniques and is interested in anything related to the land, food production and energy conversion.

13 Comments

  1. Such an interesting project. I’m sure there is so much more to say.
    I hope you can tell us what is The fish’s feeding component and cost.
    It would be interesting to know even the sand cleaning process between harvesting if there is one. Or any cleaning step due to formation of unwanted algae.

    best of luck

    • Hi Marcello, the fish are fed a diet with a minimum analysis of 32% crude protein, 5% crude fat and not more than 6.0% crude fiber. They are also fed a supplemental feed from on-farm inputs such as moringa and colocasia leaves.

      There are no sand cleaning process followed between harvesting. Beneficial algal growth were seen only during first two weeks. Once plants are established, this is of no consequence at all and they died back once the plant canopy blocked sunlight reaching the surface.

  2. I love seeing your progress and will contribute when I can. I tried to subscribe to your newsletter but I’m not sure I was successful at doing that. Keep it up. I love watching you do your good work.

    • Hi Tracie, thanks. It seems that you are already subscribed to our newsletter. Please check if our newsletters are going to your spam folder by any chance, or in Promotional tabs and such.

  3. I went to visit them in 2019 before COVID! So many things I want to ask! I will be visiting again!

  4. The Venus Project – practically the only one project on our Planet, which is worth to develop, support and expand! For all of us, for all the Humanity, for genius ideas of Jacque and Roxana, for the Future…..

    • Thank you Nikita, we want to show even more of the capabilities and possibilities. Stay tuned. There is more to come.

  5. Just so incredibly inspiring.
    I live in Australia and just moved back to our small family farm.
    We are collaborating with awesome human beings and designing permaculture and biodynamic farming models to grow food, composting and pruning workshops to reskin and re-train folks, building affordable tiny mobile homes for accommodation needs for people to live on land sustainability……there is an ENORMOUS groundswell of people actively wanting to get involved, change their lifestyle, connect again with our beautiful Mother…..
    Amongst all the terrible atrocities happening in the world right now there is hope and light….& there is still love
    Congratulations on what you are all achieving.
    You are true pioneers in spirit and action.
    God bless your path and your wonderful souls.

    • Thank you for you what you are doing and for the kind words, Kristy. There is a lot of work ahead of us, for sure.

  6. This is the future of urban agriculture. Such a method will exponentially localize supply chains for agricultural distribution maximizing sustainability. This shows great promise to minimize the nutrition gap between haves & have nots in the developing world. Integrated hydroponics systems can also be used for water purification making it safe for local consumption. Once introduced as an effective alternative, water borne diseases/illnesses can be reduced substantially. I argue when this methodology is applied as a “universal developmental standard,” the prospect of meeting sustainability goals for this century will be within reach. However, some of the greatest challenges with this project will be associated with implementation. Case studies such as: how to forge local collaborations with regional authorities in ways that cannot be disturbed by local corruption, must be addressed.

  7. With everything going on in the US and the world, I have pretty much all but completely lost hope in humanity, but finding out about the existence of the Venus Project today is helping me gain some of it back. I will spread the word as best I can. Thank you for all you are doing and I’m looking forward to learning more about it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.