The thousand-odd residents of Apaga, a village by the Turkish border in western Armenia, have engaged in traditional farming for generations - ploughing the land, planting the seeds, watering and fertilizing the soil and picking up the veggies. So when microbiologist Artem Parseghyan, 29, and environmentalist Grigor Janoyan, 30, set up an aquaponics greenhouse in Apaga in 2013 their project raised a few eyebrows. Yet, the UK and German-educated Armenians maintain that the innovative system may save farmers in the Armavir province, one of Armenia’s poorest, where large swaths of land have become difficult to cultivate due to increasing levels of salinity.
Aquaponics combines raising fish and growing plants in one integrated system whereby the fish waste provides an organic food source for the plants and, in return, the plants naturally filter the water for the fish.
The two social entrepreneurs, through their Green Age NGO, attracted the funding needed to set up the facility in Apaga - they aim at educating the local farmers about the advantages of the system, training them in the greenhouse, and then leave the facility to the village so that it will then become community property.