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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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’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 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.