When Shashank Dubey learned about the potential health risks associated with vegetables grown on the Yamuna floodplain, he decided to grow his own vegetables.

“These vegetables are grown in polluted environments. People who consume them get fatal diseases, such as cancer. The quality of the food that we consume matters. So I thought I should grow my own vegetables,” he says.

In 2018, the engineer quit his job and ventured into growing his own food using aquaponics farming — a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics.

It has a similar setup of hydroponics but with an additional fish tank to breed fish. The fish excreta is decomposed by bacteria into nitrate – an ideal fertiliser for plants.

Other than nitrates produced by fish waste, he adds iron nails, lime, and egg shells to boost iron and calcium nutrients in the media.

“The biggest advantage of this method is that along with growing food without soil in less space, it is also organic. Also, there is no need to fertilise the plants individually,” says the Vadodara resident.

Today, he grows nearly 2,500 varieties of green leafy vegetables, medicinal herbs, and flowers on a 2,000 sq-ft terrace and harvests about 500 kg of vegetables in a month.

“Food production is basic yet urban residents avert from the idea. I wanted to build this farm to demonstrate that urban people can also grow vegetables every day,” he says.

Shashank says it costs Rs 800 per sq ft to establish an aquaponics terrace farm in a vertical setup. He now also trains urban residents interested in farming.

“I conduct a six-hour class. In the initial three hours, I inform them about the different plants that a farmer can grow. In the next three hours, I train them on how to implement the aquaponics system,” he says.

Shashank charges Rs 2,500 and Rs 3,000 for offline and online classes, respectively. So far, he has trained 35 people from Gujarat and Rajasthan through offline and online classes.