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Indiaponics - Proto Village - Aquaponics in India

Sho is part of the Proto Village team. Shobitha is part of the Proto Village team.

On Sunday March 24 I boarded the big bird at Brisbane; flew to Singapore then on to Bangalore India for the start of the Aquaponics project in Proto Village.

Arrived in Bangalore just before midnight (Bangalore time) and was picked up by Shobitha one of the Proto Village team members.

It was a long day, on the road for around 18 hours.

Spent Monday in Bangalore recovering and doing a few necessary things.

The traffic. The traffic. Never seen anything like it before. The interesting thing is, it works.

The Traffic. Somehow, it works. The Traffic. Somehow, it works.

Proto Village is approx 120 kms outside Bangalore in a part of India that is extremely dry and barren. The farmers there grow mostly peanuts (ground nuts) and run one or two cows and have a herd of goats. Life is difficult. There is no surface water of any description.

I cannot express strongly enough the sincerity and good will of the people I met in the village, including those that came to the training. Some of the participants travelled from across India and others were from nearby Bangalore. Wonderful people.

The Proto Village project is the brain child of Kalyan. Kalyan is a most interesting person. He has given up city life to go live in this remote village because he wants to make a difference. It is just that simple.

Kalyan. The founder of the village project. Kalyan. The founder of the village project.

The plight of the common people/farmers in this part of India is staggering. Difficult for the Western mind to take in. There is a large number of suicides, daily, because of debt; debt incurred buying GM seed, insecticides and artificial fertilisers; borrowing from money lenders (loan sharks) to buy all of these things that promise a better life.

In most cases it is only a few hundred dollars but in the local farming economy that debt is insurmountable. Like all loan sharks the world over the interest rates are extraordinary. These farmers are often totally uneducated and have no idea how to calculate the interest or understand why or how extra money is being added to their debt. The rains do not come and the crop of promise fails to materialise. Faced with threats from loan sharks and a hungry family the shame is just to great to bear.

The favoured method of suicide is to drink a cup of insecticide which brings death, but only after several hours, sometimes days of indescribable agony. There is no available medical assistance.

Arrived at the village late afternoon after a 120 km drive from Bangalore. After sun set we were greeted by a full moon which was handy, because there was no power for lighting. It was still very hot, no breeze. There was a lot of activity in continuing work on the 24 volt power supply coming off the new wind power generator that had just been completed this afternoon.

The wind gen set has been made from scratch. The alternator was wound by hand and made from a set of plans that came out of Scotland. Excellent work. Such a device is very appropriate for this village situation.

A guy had come to the Village from a nearby sustainability organization to complete the final set up of the turbine. He completed the final wiring down from the turbine and into the little concrete building that housed the rectifier control box. The turbine is expected to produce power when the wind speed is at 10 kph or more.

wind turbine Wind powered turbine producing 24 volts DC power.

That evening the breeze kicked in at 9 pm and the wind driven turbine sprang into action as expected. Evidently the previous night wind came up at 9 pm also. It would appear by all accounts to be a regular occurrence. If this proves to be the case a good quantity of power will be produced.

Pankaj, the film maker is busy running a wire off the 24 volt battery bank to the DC pump for the aquaponics system. The mains power is only available between 10 and 12 pm every day... The power has just come on. This is the time to charge phones etc. There is an inverter charger that can put battery charge into the battery bank when the mains power is available. As it turns out the mains power is very unreliable and of low voltage. Something has gone wrong with the inverter/charger and it has caused the rectifier box for the wind turbine to malfunction. Now there is no power at all. It is apparent that the rectifier box has been badly damaged somehow and will need to go for repair.

The fish were picked up on our way here today, 300 common carp. Perhaps it was a day or two too soon. We still do not have a fish tank and more importantly we do not have any way of aerating the fish water. After getting the fish to the village, we placed the fish in two separate buckets of about 25 litres each. One bucket has water from the pond and the other has the water that the fish came in plus 10 or so litres of drinking water. This is done to test the pond water by seeing if the fish so divided survive. If they do die it will not be conclusive, because of totally inadequate aeration. We do not know, at this point if the pond water will be suitable for the fish.

To be continued.............

PS. I wish to raise funds to purchase a wood chipper machine similar to the one shown.woodChipper

It is difficult to decide which piece of equipment is most urgent, but the need to make good quality compost for gardening, soil improvement, aquaponics nutrient is urgent to get the project off and running.

The only readily available carbon source is palm fronds. These can not be used for cattle fodder so we can utilize these together with cow manure, cow urine to make excellent compost.

We hope to source this machine in India to save funds but will import if necessary. This machine in Australia costs around 800.00 plus freight.

Please donate. You can be assured there will be full accounting to all those who donate and your funds will be doing some real good for people who deserve a helping hand. No donation too small, none too big. So please use the Paypal button provided.

Updates will be published on this blog site.

Other items are necessary, such as a reliable small diesel gen set to supplement the wind turbine. Prior to that, solar panels with regulator and battery bank to be hooked into the wind turbine system.

Posted By Murray Hallam on 8th April 2013

Updated : 8th April 2013 | Words : 1240 | Views : 3686 | Comments : 30

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hi , how do you do, I am very happy to get the opportunity to talk to the best exclusive people in the world. I need to start my own aquaponics garden home base system to experiment and grow my own food. I live in a city. how do I start.

Posted By isaac ramatlotlo on Saturday 3rd August 2013 @ 22:04:48


Hi Isaac,
You have started well by finding this site. Read all the material you can here then it is good to purchase my DVD's. They can be purchased here http://www.practicalaquaponics.shopfactory.com/contents/en-us/d3.html
or if you are in the USA here..http://aquaponicsinstitute.com/shop
Or, attend one of our trainings also seen here...http://aquaponicsinstitute.com/shop
I hope this helps
Regards Murray

Posted By Murray on Saturday 3rd August 2013 @ 22:04:48


Hi Murray, if you manage to source chipper/shredder locally in India, I would like to know the source and price. Thanks

Posted By Jyot Singh on Thursday 25th April 2013 @ 05:29:28


Sure thing. It is proving to be a bit difficult to locate a good quality one.

Posted By Murray on Thursday 25th April 2013 @ 05:29:28


Hello Murray,
Have you been able to obtain the mulcher yet? If not, how far off are you?

Posted By Robert Hughes on Thursday 18th April 2013 @ 13:27:51


Hi Robert,
Not yet, still getting prices and specifications for the various chipper / shredders. Communication is a bit difficult but we are getting there. Thanks so much for your interest in the project.

Posted By Murray on Thursday 18th April 2013 @ 13:27:51


Hi Murray,
I had no idea you were doing such good work around the world :) Your description of conditions in India brought a tear to my eye. I hope that my donation assists with your purchase of equipment for this very worthwhile project - I wish I could have given more. My toteponics system built with your design template October 2011 is going strong now with 50 trout harvested last winter and 70 silver perch very healthy at present. I have more veggies than I can eat so my family and friends are very happy (bok choy going gang busters at moment). I'd love to attend one of your commercial AP workshops in future - when you are close to South Australia.... so that i can in future assist with AP projects in third world countries. I have a family friend who is interested in a system for her orphanage/sustainable farming demo site in Philippians - I would be interested in any information/advice on how I could go about such a project in future.

Carl Charter

Posted By carl charter on Tuesday 16th April 2013 @ 02:50:12


Hi Carl,
Thanks so much for your support. It all adds up. The project is moving ahead well with the pond having been dug out much deeper and the pond walls repaired. They have set up 4 small wicking beds to test and prove the concept before building larger ones.
Thanks for your support.

Posted By Murray on Tuesday 16th April 2013 @ 02:50:12


Hi Murray! Have seen your videos on you tube, but were not aware that you had a blog too; I would have loved to have made it to your workshop when you were in India. India definitely needs to promote Aquaponics among the heavily marginalized small farmer community.

I however would not recommend the walking catfish, since they are highly invasive to natural ecosystems. Recently there was a big crack down by the authorities on the outskirts of Bangalore on some people who were trying to farm them illegally.

Posted By Avin on Friday 12th April 2013 @ 09:32:53


Thanks for that information Avin, The fish we obtained for the project were common carp.

Posted By Murray on Friday 12th April 2013 @ 09:32:53


Hi Murray, there are a few types available in India.. I use one that is manufactured by Bhide & Sons, Sangli...have tagged you on the link on fb.

Posted By Darryl Pereira on Wednesday 10th April 2013 @ 02:53:39


Hi Darryl,
Looking at that. I have emailed Kalyan and asked him to check it out and make a decision from there. You are right, best to buy it in country. Thanks for all you do Darryl.

Posted By Murray on Wednesday 10th April 2013 @ 02:53:39


Hi Murray
Wow! What a story. The AP projects that I am involved with in Bali are a breeze compared to the challenges you are facing. However, the basic problems are the same in developing countries. Each step forward is usually followed closely by a couple of strides backward!

I am interested in your plans for 24V DC for pumping water. I have experimented with 12V DC marine-grade bilge pumps (1500 gal/hour) with limited long-term success. I really don't know why NGOs persist with wind turbines - they are so unreliable and inefficient in the long-term because a base-load supply is always needed. Even solar is problematic during the monsoon, but frankly wind is a waste of money.

In my experience, I have found that long term success of projects like these rely upon training of local people. We are setting up a small system to be used specifically for training in Bali. We hope to eventually see AP systems in several orphanages, but it is a long-term commitment. There are way too many aid projects lying derelicty throughout the developing world because the primary infrastructure and training were not first developed within local communities.

I would definitely encourage you to source your mulcher from India, rather than import it. You will be supporting local businesses and economic development in the area. In Bali we use locally sourced materials and contractors at all times. It is very challenging, but is essntial if the aid we offer is to be meaningful to the community we are serving. Any success will be built on long term relationships.

I am pretty heavily committed to my own project work, but I will throw a few bucks into the hat for your efforts, knowing that it will be helping in an important task. Keep up the good work mate.


Posted By Garry Graham on Wednesday 10th April 2013 @ 00:49:43


Hi Garry,
Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Yes, I was a bit unprepared I must admit even after working in PNG for 10 years I was still caught out on some items. Like you I saw a good number of projects in PNG that failed in similar ways to your experience in Bali. Thanks for your assistance. We already have near enough to purchase the chipper/mulcher for the village. Next we need to get basic tool sets, then some solar panels.

I am interested in your comments re wind turbines.....would you care to elaborate?

Posted By Murray on Wednesday 10th April 2013 @ 00:49:43


Youd never see it in Australia
Just about all the major Asian aquaculture species are banned there

Giant gourami
Walking catfish
Bawal / veg piranha

Prob mostly with good reason! They are prolific survivors
Tasty too!

I really think some of these superfish will make even greater aquaponics systems in Asia
Lele catfish will be extremely productive and not fail with lack of aeration
And really pump out so much fish wastes!

Bullfrogs too are delicious! They have waste issues that duckweed would help capture

Asia also has some great aquatic vegetables

Genjer ( limnocharis fulva) will cop you 50000 fine in Oz but in indonesia it's a delicate tasty spinach. Great aquaponics. Pan Asian in any rice paddy where it hasn't beeneateb out!
Also Neptunia oleracea a water legume that could make aquaponics a closed nitrogen system if fish browse it - great in steamboats
My favorite is Kangkong water spinach in aquaponics - amazing productivity

By the way. Tillapia love them all

And leucaena foliage, soaked then sun dried to a powder can replace most fishmeal in a diet for catfish

Posted By Reville on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 22:40:40


Thanks Murray!

Yes poo fed fish aren't my ideal lunch either but it demonstrates an incredible water quality tolerance!

They also love pellets, worms, and other more conventional foods!
Which is how they are grown commercially.

Wiki says

In parts of India it's called mugudu and is a delicacy

In java it's so cheap it's a favorite of the rural and urban poor
Here it's called Lele
It's kept in a bucket alive at the foodstand as it breathes air only a damp sack keeps them alive
When required it's quickly eviscerated and dropped in hot oil
Crispy fried and served with rice, raw vegetable salad and chilli sambal

Posted By Reville on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 22:28:13


Hi Reville,
Interesting fish. Would be a winner I reckon if fed good tucker. Thanks for the info.

Posted By Murray on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 22:28:13


Hi Murray
I'm enroute to eastern indonesia. They have similar problems
If I may suggest a few things
Here the best lowland species is catfish - clarias spp
Air breathers that can be stocked at phenomenal densities and even live in and eat raw human sewage.
They can be raised to eating siZe in as little as 50 days
They are very tasty
They would be available there

Posted By Reville on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 12:03:38


A great source of thatch and compost material is vetiver grass, native there.
If there are degraded wetlands and greywater issues there is also phragmites karka also native. Great fodder and mulch while cleaning pollution

Posted By Reville on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 12:03:38


Thanks for that Reville. Can't say I have ever seen the species you speak of.....not to keen on feeding fish on human sewerage then eating them!! They do sound amazing.

Posted By Murray on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 12:03:38


Hope that donation helps, make a difference. Just left your country, loved it! Maybe I'll see you in central florida some day. You got me in AP, now I give alot of food away. Spread the wealth.

Posted By Grant Gore on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 07:54:38


Thanks Grant, every little bit helps. We are more than half way to getting the mulching machine....Thanks to everyone.

Posted By Murray on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 07:54:38


I enjoyed reading your blog
I hope to use it with my year 9 Ag class when we study aquaponics later on this year.

Posted By stephen rawlinson on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 07:49:14


Thanks Stephen.

Posted By Murray on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 07:49:14


Excellent work, Murray. I wish I had known that you were coming to India. I would have loved to meet you.
Would you be interested in a way to raise water head without using electricity? It relies on running water flow. Would that help in this case?

Posted By Srijit on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 07:19:30


Hi Srijit,
Interested in the system you speak of, but no use where we were running the project....no running water of any description. No surface water at all.

Posted By Murray on Tuesday 9th April 2013 @ 07:19:30


Your article bought tears to my eyes because the plight of people in countries like India has been one of the things I have been watching intently for a few years now. Nearly 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995 and many people say it is because of GMO seeds.

Dr Vandana Shiva is a hero to help the Indian people and expose what is going on too. https://vimeo.com/59404290#

By you bringing this to light in the public eye is something that desperately needs to be done too. We need more voices to show the world what is happening instead of sweeping it under the carpet and then going about our daily business.

Thank you and I am very glad I know you.

Posted By Victoria on Monday 8th April 2013 @ 15:14:16


Hi Victoria,
I think the problem is far worse than reported although I had no way to accurately gauge that during such a short visit. I have no doubt that the problem exists and the plight of the small village farmer is truly terrible. I just hope we can get enough support mobilised to make a real difference in this one little corner of India. We can all do something however small.

Posted By Murray on Monday 8th April 2013 @ 15:14:16


Hi Murray
Fascinating story.

I have tried to make a donation but am not sure if it has gone through OK. I often give thanks for our privileged lives in Australia and am happy to give a little when I know it will get to where it is needed most. I'm only sorry it can't be a lot more.

Please get back to me if it has not gone through.

Where are you getting the water for the fish? Is there any underground? I assume fish water will evaporate pretty quickly there. Are you doing some wicking beds as well?

On a side note, I managed to keep some fish alive through our 5 day blackout. Every hour or two I would go and lift buckets of fish water and from as high as I could lift, and pour the water back into the tanks. With two tanks I could only manage about 10 buckets each time but I was able to save about 15 or 30 fish in each tank (they are not easy to count!) and have not lost any since. They varied from 4 to 7 inches each.

Also been meaning to tell you that I having good success rates striking cuttings for flower plants in the fish tank grow beds. I am careful not to use poisonous varieties.

Old fashioned roses, hydrangeas, daisies, lavender, dahlias, perennial petunias and lots more. When the cuttings have a few roots on them I plant them into pots of soil and keep them Very wet with fish water (sitting in a couple of inches deep) for a week or two, gradually cutting back to harden them off. I think it could have commercial value. (Not for me though - I have enough to do!)

Keep up the good work!

Leonie in Montville. Qld

Posted By Leonie Gttins on Monday 8th April 2013 @ 07:13:28


Hi Leonie,
Yes your donation went through and thanks so very much. We will be able to get the mulcher very soon. Today I will ask Kelyan to see if he can identify one in India that is good quality and see how we go rather than paying freight from Australia or the US.

Glad to hear that your AP is going well.. Luck to save the fish. Need a backup system of some sort.

Posted By Murray on Monday 8th April 2013 @ 07:13:28


I am deeply moved, Murray. You are a great man. I wish I could afford to donate more. Anyway, I do my best.

Posted By Citizen Peng on Monday 8th April 2013 @ 04:14:43


Thanks so much Peng for your support. This will get things moving along. There is great need and in reality easily assisted. I really believe we can make a difference in this part of India.

Posted By Murray on Monday 8th April 2013 @ 04:14:43


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