S Maxwell Lyngdoh
Shillong, July 25: Rudy E Kharmawphlang, owner and promoter of Sawaiomagro and Allied Products was born and brought up in Shillong and has been in the news for his innovation and hard work in the field of Hydroponics and Aquaponics. This young entrepreneur started small but has been able to make a mark for himself. Till date, Rudy has completed eight projects for varied clients. This success came after many years of training, rejection of his initial proposals and ideas and after being turned down by financial institutions, banks, and private financers etc. Like many struggles, his journey was not a smooth one either.
Rudy ‘stumbled upon a video’ on the internet at the time when he was looking for ways and means to start a new livelihood as his previous business was not doing very well in the state. The video is about future fish farming called Aquaponics and upon further research, he came across Hydroponics. “Since I was a person who is passionate about farming from my childhood, I decided to have a go on it,” he says. With a firm determination and support of his team of like-minded people and with the help of his wife, Rudy went underwent his first training at Dhaka for five days to learn about a technique which is called RAS. After this, there was no looking back, Rudy and his team started with a small project in 2016 to showcase the viability of this project and in 2018, the first DPR was prepared to introduced Hydroponics and Aquaponics.
After being shuffled in our usual red-tapism system of governance which caused delays in the implementation process, in 2019, Rudy designed his first system with 1200 planters and with 15kgs of fish on a small rooftop in an area of just 280-300sqft. He was able to practice and learn more about Hydroponics and Aquaponics and with the passage of time, he got better and was able to design systems for others too. Rudy’s commitment is slowly being recognised in the State amongst people of various sections and his earnest prayer is that the Government and other stakeholders will come forward to enhance his initiative. The ultimate aim of this project is to benefit not only the State and the community but to help create a cleaner and greener future and also help combat climate change.
While trying to understand terms like Aquaponics and Hydroponics from the layman’s point of view, it can be defined as “Aquaponics – is a cooperation between plants and fish and the term originates from the two words aquaculture (the growing of fish in a closed environment) and Hydroponics – the growing of plants usually in a soil-less environment” (Source: Food and Agriculture Organization, 2021). Literally speaking, Aquaponics is putting fish to work. It just so happens that the work those fish do (eating and producing waste), is the perfect fertilizer for growing plants. “And man, fish can grow a lot of plants when they get to work!” Rudy commented.
One of the advantages of Aquaponics is that it mimics a natural ecosystem. Aquaponics represents the relationship between water, aquatic life, bacteria, nutrient dynamics, and plants that grow together in waterways all over the world. Taking cues from nature, aquaponics harnesses the power of bio-integrating these individual components: Exchanging the waste by-product from the fish as a food for the bacteria, to be converted into a perfect fertilizer for the plants, to return the water in a clean and safe form to the fish. Just like mother nature does in every aquatic ecosystem (The Aquaponic Source, 2020).
After having learnt and experiment for a couple of years, Rudy shared “Since we had no garden or yard in our house, I turned towards the roof where I decided to set up the planter which includes deep water culture (DWC) and nutrient film technique (NFT). I created this set-up on the terrace so that I can experiment with it. Now his enterprise called the Sawaiom Agro and Allied Products is producing and harvesting nice fresh vegetables every week. We also grow kale, lettuce, Swiss chard, tomatoes, bell peppers, basil, broccoli, mustard leaves, strawberries, etc”.
He further added – “Initially only the nutrients from the fish waste were used and the growth was amazing. Later, I used nutrients like NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), Secondary Nutrients and Micronutrients, etc. The best part about this technology is that it doesn’t rely on climate and we don’t use pesticides, herbicides, formalin or other harmful chemicals. All produce is fresh, clean, nutritious, organic and residue-free”. “The size of the space farm is just 300 sq. ft and it is producing 1200 heads of greens, which include DWC and NFT. The initial investment for the size of 300sq ft farm is approximately Rs 1.70 to Rs 1.80 lakh” – Rudy shared. While looking into some of his future plans, Rudy intends to begin commercial production soon with an initial production of 60 tonnes of fish annually and 180 to 200 tonnes of leafy greens annually.
Rudy’s main goal was to set up commercial production in East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya. He believes, this is a game-changing sustainable and responsible farming where they can showcase pesticides and chemical-free produce and all through this technology which helps to conserve land and water at the same time which is the need of the hour, as we are going through direct threats of climate change. Some of the benefits of Aquaponics include 1. Organic and Nutritional Benefits, 2. Food is Grown All Year Round, 3. Reduces Water Usage, 4. No Soil, No Weeding, 5. Accelerated Plant Growth, 6. Two Incomes for Commercial Aquaponics Farmers, 7. Reduces the Planet’s Carbon Footprint, and 8. Supports a Self-Sufficient Way of Living (Source, Greenway Biotech, Inc., 2021).
On the other hand, the benefits of Hydroponics and its Impact on Agriculture include 1. Maximizes Space, 2. Conserves Water, 3. Facilitates a Micro-Climate, 4. Produces Higher Yields, 5. Require Less Labour, 6. Needs No Soil, 7. Produces Higher Quality Food, 8. Reduces Supply Chain, 9. Predictability and Seasonality, and 10. Crops Grow Faster (Source: 2021 Eden Green Technology).
While wishing Rudy and his team the very best with all future endeavours and expansion, it calls out to us as readers and as consumers that we can also play a part to support, promote and motivate such innovations of our youth by buying and consuming their produce. Sawaiomagro and Allied Products is based in Laitumkhrah, Shillong. They can be reached at their pages: Instagram: Sawaiomagro, Facebook: sawaiomagro and their produce are also available on a home delivery basis @ +91-9774596122. We are thankful to Mr. Rudy E Kharmawphlang for this and we hope that more such souls come forward to set examples for our young ones. A passion, if identified and work upon can lead one to accomplish many dreams and desires, in particular, it can also lead a person to set up a livelihood not only for himself/herself but for many others who are involved in making the vision come to life. Above all, if such initiatives can help our ecosystem which is a matter of great concern in present times, then nothing more rewarding for all of us in the community.
Rudy’s message to the youth and aspiring entrepreneurs is “We should always remember that there is nothing impossible with God and the rest will fall into place. We should never stop believing in ourselves, in what we can do or can’t do. Perseverance, handwork, dedication, honesty and strong determination are what we need. The first time we may not succeed, what is important is we should get up and try again… That is exactly what I have been doing so far and I believe one day, I will overcome all the challenges.”
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
S Maxwell Lyngdoh