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Aquaponics: The Perfect Agriculture For Urban Youths

In its bid to offer a platform to the public, especially young talents  to showcase their creative works, TVS features another entry, Written by Ng Xin Ying from the Public Relations Event & Consultancy, School of Media and Communication, Taylor’s University.

WHEN most young people think of agriculture or farming, they visualize vast acres of land in the estate, covered in crops that are full of dirt, and back-breaking physical labour from dawn to dusk.

Sean Lee showing his aquaponics farm

(Source: Cooking Ah Pa youtube channel)

However, these young urban farmers of E-Farm Aquaponics Malaysia, Sean Lee and Eddie Soong, who are presently university students, have proved that farming can be clean, comfortable and conducted in the middle of the city too. The tip behind it is the aquaponics farming system.

Aquaponics system, in summary, is using fish waste as a source of nutrients for plants to grow. Fish waste will be turned into nitrates via a biofilter machine. Plants, as we know, take nitrate as a source of nutrients to grow. The nutrients will be pumped to every plant vertically through pipes of towers.

In other words, aquatic animals and plants work symbiotically in an aquaponics system, in which vegetables are fed with fishes’ waste and the vegetables clean the water, which is then returned to the fish. This farming approach is ideal for people who enjoy planting and rearing fishes but dislike maintaining the aquarium’s filtration system. With aquaponics, the tank will be cleaned and the plants will be nutrients-watered automatically.

In Sean and Eddie’s E-Farm, they are growing over 11,000 vegetables and herbs in a 1,000 square foot greenhouse that is on top of a fish pond with 1,000 red tilapia. “At E-Farm, we use aquaponics to grow 100% organic and pesticide free vegetables. Aquaponics is a method of using fish, bacteria and plants to grow vegetables. We feed our fish with special formulated fish food that is free of antibiotics and growth hormone, as well as occasionally with unsold small veggies. The waste from fish will enter our filtration system, where it will be turned to nitrates by good bacteria, and then pumped vertically into each plant tower,” Sean explained.

Clean and comfortable farming

Cleanliness and comfort are important to today’s youths, particularly youths from urban areas. Many people often misconceive or stereotype agricultural activities to be filthy and unpleasant, so they tend to avoid them. What if people are educated or aware that farming could be clean and comfortable too?

“Our greenhouse feels incredibly comfortable and clean because of our special roof and soil substitutes.  

“Our roof is two layered, water and heat-resistant, which can block 30% of heat from entering, to provide consistent temperature to the plants. If it’s too hot, the plants will die. So, our greenhouse is constantly kept at a very cool and comfortable temperature.

“We substitute our soil with clay balls and cocopeat (blended coconut husk), for cleanliness and also to avoid bacteria from getting into the plant. We don’t use soil or dirt because dirt carries a lot of bacteria, fungus, virus and unborn pest eggs, all of which might harm the plants’ growth, which we don’t want. Farming is a lot easier and cleaner with clay balls. We can simply toss seeds on it, and it will sprout,” Sean remarked

Clay balls technique is a very practical and popular farming concept that is emerging all over the world. Clay balls are made of clay so it’s 100% natural and environmentally-friendly. They are very lightweight, long-lasting, easy for transplanting and harvesting, and easy on the hands. Clay balls are perfect to be used in both hydroponic and aquaponic systems.

More organic than others

Nowadays, people are more aware of food safety, and opt for organic food because of low pesticides. However, worms will often consume vegetables grown in low pesticide farms, making them seem unappealing to eat.

But, with vertical farming techniques in a dirt-free environment, the plants grown will look incredibly beautiful, clean and nutritious.

Fresh and vivid vegetables grown in E-Farm Aquaponics

(Source: Cooking Ah Pa youtube channel)

“The difference between E-Farm 100% organic vegetables and regular organic farm vegetables is that ours are twice as nutritious, crispier, juicier, sweeter, and fresher.

“We specially use non-genetically modified seeds, so it will take a longer time to grow. However, they develop a more distinct, stronger flavor while growing in our vertical farming setting, compared to others that mostly taste like water. Longan, wasabi, and even guava flavors can be found in some of our crops,” he said.

Food Security and Sustainability

The outbreak of pandemic has made us realise that food security is crucial and important. Majority of people panic buying groceries as we are aware that Malaysia is not fully self-sufficient, and are relying on outsourcing to meet local consumers demands. Urban areas depend on outsourced food supply more than the countryside.

What if our country can supply 100% of food and achieve 100% food security? How should we, as the future generation of the country, contribute to solving this issue?

Aquaponics is a big hope for Malaysia’s food security, especially in the urban areas. Aquaponics can be done by anyone, including the youths in urban areas. It does not necessarily require a large greenhouse to operate the system. Thus, it is ideal for home farming because it is simple to assemble and operate.

It is high time we strengthen the country’s food security in order to ensure resilient and sustainable food security in the long run against any pandemic. Hopefully, more young adults will venture into our country’s agrosector, and contribute to strengthen food supply and self-sufficiency through increased domestic production, reduced dependence on food imports and modern technology innovation.

This story is written by “Youngriculture campaign” team for Department of Agriculture, Putrajaya, by Public Relations Event and Consultancy students of School of Media and Communication, Taylor’s University under project lecturer/project advisor, Ms. G. Manickam Govindaraju.

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