Touted as the future of agriculture, a consultant and designer, Hansraj Seechurn has set up a system of aquaponics at his home in Quatre Bornes. A system which he described as representing the future and adopting a healthy life. Since three years now, this young man is practicing aquaponics and he is doing it with expertise and foresight.
Hansraj Seechurn, director of Tilapia Aquaponics Shop, explains that aquaponics is a combination of his passion for nature and health consciousness. After having recently lost a close relative due to cancer despite having spent a fortune for his treatment, he realized that even with money, health is not 100% guaranteed and the only solution is healthy eating with focus to avoid food that contain lots of chemicals and pesticides.
The young man is currently focusing on being a facilitator, that is, creating awareness and setting up a special home system. His objective is to spread this new system across the country and making it accessible to everyone. He explains that aquaponics is a simulated ecosystem, more precisely, a simulated freshwater ecosystem. “Aquaponics is (almost) a closed loop, soil-less farming method that can be done anywhere. The reason for its existence is because we can produce organic plants out of it, which are free from any chemical fertilizers and pesticides. All year round, producing both plants and fish. The system reprocesses water and nutrients, making it about 90% more water efficient. There is no soil degradation or diseases because it doesn't use soil.”
He argues, today, there is an issue with organic certification. “Once an organic soil farmer is certified, the inspector rarely stops by to check if they are truly practicing organic methods. There is currently more organic produce being sold, than actually being grown, which means some produce labeled as organic are not. The only way to combat this is to know the farm you are buying from.”
He confides that currently, aquaponics is not so famous across the country but he has noticed that people, today, know about the importance of being healthy and hence, they will gradually start making changes.
He reveals that aquaponics has lots of benefits. Firstly, he states that there is no cheating with with aquaponics because we can’t use chemical pesticides of any kind, as the fish would die. “Even most approved organic pesticides would kill the fish. The fish act as the canary in the coal mine, and force the aquaponics farmer to be honest. Aquaponics mimics the natural symbiotic relationship between fish and plants. Even traditional organic farms need to supplement their soil with fertilizers. These fertilizers can be bad for the over health of the soil and watershed.”
He further adds that aquaponics uses 90% less water than traditional farming, as it recycles the water in the system. “With this technique, plants can be grown in areas with little water supply. Water and nutrients are recycled in a closed-loop fashion which conserves water. Besides, in this type of farming, there is no weeding. Plants grow twice as fast due to the naturally fortified water from the fish.”
For the commercial farmer, aquaponics produces two streams of income: Fish and veggies, rather than just one, he says. “An aquaponics farm does not require land with fertile soil. Moreover, aquaponics protects our rivers and lakes. No harmful fertilizer run off into the water shed. In attempts to maintain nutrient rich soil in traditional farming, farms have to use a lot of fertilizers, those excess fertilizers eventually make it to the rivers, where there are countless harmful side effects.”
Concerning energy conservation, he recalls that all energy used in aquaponics is electrical, so alternate energy systems such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric can be used to power the system.
Aquaponics versus Hydroponics
Hansraj confides that it is important to differentiate aquaponics and hydroponics. He utters that with hydro, one has to continuously change the water supply, because the nutrient solution builds up salts and chemicals in the water. Hence, it wastes more water and at the same time, pollutes the watershed. “Nutrient solutions for hydro are super expensive, whereas the fish in aquaponics can be fed worms, bugs and scraps from the plants. Hydro revolves around a sterile environment, whereas Aquaponics embraces all micro-organisms, as they each play an important part in the growing process. As such aquaponics tends to have less diseases and pest problems. In hydroponics, you don’t get to raise and harvest fish. Hydroponic growers can use toxic chemicals to control pests, whereas Aquaponics can’t cheat since the whole system will fail right away if ever any pesticide is used.”
One of the long-term projects is to set up a big farm where all crops and plants can be grown and available to all Mauritians. His short and immediate project is to promote aquaponics, create more awareness and provide as much information as possible to people making this type of farming more accessible for home use. “Good health with little money is still a good life. But money without a good health equals to no life.”
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