The Aquaponic Farmers

31 Jul

Ado Plax had never aspired to becoming an agriculturist, especially not one who grew crops under water. But when his father’s uncle passed away and left him an acre devoted to fish aquaculture and vegetable hydroponics.

The young man found himself in a situation where he was compelled to learn the art of farming in water used simultaneously for two kinds of food production.

How am I going to learn the special art and craft of this dual form of enterprise? the tall, enormous youth asked himself.

He decided to ask among his neighboring owners of water plots for anyone willing to act as his instructor in the secrets of aquaponics. Everyone claimed to be too busy and engaged with his own private operations. The only farmer who said he was able to be his teacher was an old man with snow-white hair named Yapho Jaan. This bright, lively veteran, with his decades of experience in the water tanks, proved to be an eager volunteer for the post of mentor to the heir to the water farm.

“I knew your uncle quite well and I liked him,” said Yapho to his new neighbor. “It would be a pleasure and an honor to help get you introduced to the ways and methods of our system of agriculture. Just tell me when you wish to start your education, my boy.”

“The present is as good as any time to begin,” affirmed the eager young neighbor. “Until now, I have never been too interested in how farmers like my uncle managed their water plots. But now that is my main focus of attention.”

Yapho led his pupil around the periphery of his large fish tank, pointing out the presence of perch, cod, and catfish swimming in the clear water.

“I know that your uncle tended to specialize in raising fish such as carp and bass. There is always a market demand for those varieties. But in recent years, many of our neighboring water farms have turned to more valuable types such as trout and tilapia. The buying public is always on the lookout for new tastes in their fish diet. But I myself am now too old to introduce any new species into my water tanks.”

The two men finished their circling of the large water tank and entered the small cabin of Yapho, where the latter offered his new neighbor a cup of tea.

All at once, a young man unfamiliar to Ado came into the parlor room from the interior of the structure. “This is my son, Tano,” said the old man. He then introduced the two to each other.

The lanky, athletic son spoke directly to his father, as if there were no one else present in the cabin. “A meeting has been called for tonight. It is going to be held in our township school building, and both of us will be expected to be present.”

Yapho turned and faced Ado, providing him an explanation.

“All the water farmers in this area belong to the same general association, but we do not all use the same method for growing plant life. Your father and I both used floating hydroponic rafts, but a large proportion of the growers depend on a media-based system that uses soil and gravel in different combinations.

“That is a very significant difference in how we approach the problems involved in aquaponic farming.”

Ado thought several moments. “There is an important difference between the wo kinds of water agriculturists?” he asked.

Yapho nodded his head. “You will see for yourself how greatly we are polarized.”

The organizer and chief leader among the water farmers who grew their crops on rafts was a commanding bruin named Beko Cuac. This brawny giant saw every user of another method such as a media base as a personal enemy.

It was Beko who summoned his fellow rafters to frequent meetings where he harangued them about the dangers posed by their hydroponic competitors.

“If we allow these intruders to apply the odd methods they intend to use, with artificial containers stuffed with clay and gravel to create a closed loop with their fish tanks, they will conquer our whole agricultural industry in time. This wild innovation threatens to ruin us traditionalists who grow our plants on the Styrofoam rafts we construct in the troughs of our fish tanks.

“We cannot let these newcomers take over and change the landscape of aquaponics. I do not intend to let it happen.”

“What can any of us do about these competitors?” asked a veteran water-farmer.

Beko made a dramatic grimace. “There remains the alternative of direct action against these enemies of ours.”

On the same night, four facilities with media systems suffered serious raids by unidentified vandals. One of the aquaponic farms singled out for such damage was that of Yapho Jaan. It was his son Tano who came over to the cottage of Ado Plax to inform the novice water-farmer of what had happened.

“The damage committed was extensive,” said the young neighbor. “It will need some expensive repairs and replacements if we mean to continue.”

“Let me see what was done,” requested Ado. “Perhaps I can help with some of the work that may be required.”

The scene left by the vandalistic raiders was a sad, tragic one.

Smashed plants littered the water tank. Ado could make out the destroyed remains of peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers in one small area. Surrounding it were smashed strawberries, melons, and sweet potatoes. All about lay the evidence of what had to have been an attempt to put the Jaans out of business.

“We must call the police and have this reported to the local authorities,” said Ado to Yapho once they were back in the cottage of the older man.

“A lot of help that will be,” moaned the water farmer. “The raft-users far outnumber the medium operators like you and me, my friend. I don’t expect them to make any big effort to find the culprits responsible for what was done to my water tank.”

Ado, realizing that he might end up being the next victim, found nothing more to say at this juncture.

The new aquaponic farmer experienced a deep sense of terror. What if he happened to become the next victim of whoever carried out the attack on the tank of the Jaans? The final result might turn out to be his total ruin in the field he had just entered.

Ado groped for some possible solution to the catastrophe hanging over him.

There had to exist some possible solution. But what could it be?

After a night of long, deep sleep, an answer dawned for him. He rushed at once to reveal what it was to Yapho and his son.

Tano and his father were finishing their breakfast eggs as Ado entered and began speaking in an excited tone.

“There is a way of solving our problems with the raft-users. They must be the ones behind what happened to your water tank. But what if you were farming in a different way? One that took advantage of our gravel and clay media, but that combined it with traditional rafts?

“I am thinking of a system that might be termed a hybrid form. One that used both media layers and rafts, both of them joined together in combined form.”

Ado gazed at Yapho, waiting to see and hear what his reaction might be.

“Do you really think such a combined system is possible?” inquired the veteran water farmer. “Would it work? What would our crops become?”

“Certainly, there are great risks involved in something so experimental. I acknowledge that. But we have to attempt a new way of opposing our enemies among the traditional farmers.”

All at once, the young Tano intervened. “It sounds to me as if you want us to concede the field of aquaponics to the raft-farmers. I am afraid that we might be making a kind of surrender to those who carried out this vicious attack on our tank.

“How can we accept their rafts onto our own water farms?

“To me, it appears to be giving up as if we are cowards. How could we live with ourselves after giving up so much of what we believe in?”

Ado and Yapho looked at each other once the son had finished speaking.

“What do you think?” Ado asked the father.

“I don’t know and can’t say,” he mumbled. “Give me some time to think over what you are proposing that we do.”

Ado started at once to plan and construct his hybrid structure within the walls of his water farm.

He was quite open about the project, talking about it with anyone he met who showed any interest in what he was doing.

“I am taking the best aspects of my gravel and clay trays and combining them with the older system of growing rafts,” he declared. “That way, I aim to obtain the benefits of both methods of farming in water.”

The transformation of his tank was completed with astounding speed.

Ado often visited the cottage of the Jaans to report on the project of his plan.

“It is reaching the point of actualization quickly,” claimed the new farmer. “In just a few days, I will be initiating my new hybrid system. I want both of you to be present when I inaugurate the first water flow through the gravel pipes and into the rafts.”

“We shall certainly be there,” promised Yapho, while his fuming son made no reply to their neighbor.

For several days, Ado supervised the construction work carried out inside his tank chamber. A number of hired carpenters and welders put together the hybrid system that combined the gravel-holding tubing with rafts that he himself had designed for the particular needs that he had in mind.

Ado slept soundly each night that week because of the fact that he was exhausted from the efforts and tensions of what was going on inside and about his aquaponic tank.

He awoke abruptly an hour or so before dawn on the night that the new system’s work was completed. Was it some sort of premonition or intuition that brought him to consciousness?

The renovating water farmer walked out of his cottage in his sleeping clothes and opened the door to the aquaponic tank as if expecting to find what he did.

A raid of destruction had occurred. The newly built rafts and tunneling were broken, smashed, and scattered about in the water tank, floating about among the tiny fishes.

Had some inner voice told him that he would find such a scene?

His mind in a whirl of anxiety, Ado turned off the switch to the security lighting and returned to the cottage to call the police office and report what he had just seen. Once that was done, he rushed over to the neighboring cottage to inform the Jaans of the terrible occurrence.

Both Yapho and his son appeared shaken by the news.

“It must have been Beko Cuac and the raft farmers,” said the father in a terrified tone. “Who else had any kind of motive or reason for such a crime?”

“They are holding a general meeting of water farmers tonight,” mentioned Tano.

“I think I should go there and confront our foes,” said Ado between his teeth. “That makes sense to me.”

“We will accompany you,” promised Yapho, frowning with determination.

Ado made a decision that he felt was out of character but necessitated by the circumstances he was in.

He placed a tiny shooter armed with mini-shells in his inner suit coat pocket. This gave him a feeling of confidence that he lacked otherwise. Would he take the risk of showing or firing it off?

The situation will determine that, Ado said to himself in assurance.

He went to the meeting hall accompanied by the two Jaans, uncertain if this venture among the enemy would bring about any kind of results.

The group of three sat in the back seats of the already crowded building. Many pair of unfriendly eyes peered and stared at them.

The meeting began when Beko Cuac rose at the officers table in the front and began to address the raft farmers in a loud, powerful bass voice.

He failed to make any mention of the most recent act of destruction, the previous night’s at the water farm of Ado. The latter seethed with indignation.

“We face stubborn resistance from a small number of fanatics who dream of revolutionizing aquaponic agriculture by doing away with rafts and growing plants in furrows full of gravel and clay,” shouted the speaker. “These stubborn recalcitrant must be made to change what they are doing. They must be made to return to the only proven, long-established method of water farming. We are the people who will be able to bend them to the right way of using water in growing crops.”

General applause interrupted Beko at this point in his speech. Only Ado, Yapho, and Tano sat unmoving and voiceless.

The head of the raft farmers started to end his incendiary words with a succinct, explosive peroration.

“Let us never forget why we oppose the still experimental gravel and clay contraptions, let us continue to fight for the dominance of our proven, superior use of aquaponic rafts.”

As Beko looked in silence at his audience, from one end of the hall to the other, Ado sensed an explosion deep within his inner being.

What it was he was unable to define or describe at the moment or ever after. The event happened and passed by in a momentary flash. It was a surprise as much to him as to anyone else who was there and witnessed it.

Ado sprang forward with all his strength and might, jumping to the foreground of the raft farmer audience.

At the same time, his right hand and arm reached into the lining pocket of his suit coat, drawing out a tiny rubberlike object.

Squeezing his right hand which was holding the little gun, Ado fired at the target he was concentrating upon.

The report of the shot was brief but ear-piercing.

Instant panic and fear set in on all sides.

As Beko Cuac slumped to the floor, his legs collapsing, all eyes turned away from him, focusing upon the source of the mini-shells.

Shouts came forth at once. Many of the farmers lost their reason and their common sense.

Some unidentified person present to witness the murder by Ado Plax had enough common sense to walk up to Ado and ask him to hand over his small weapon.

Surprisingly, the shooter complied at once.

Meanwhile, several raft farmers with emergency training approached and started to examine and treat the fallen farm leader.

A police vehicle arrived in a few minutes and began to ask questions of several willing to cooperate.

“Let’s go down to the local investigation center,” one detective managed to say to Ado.”

He left the hall with the law officers, certain that they intended to throw him in jail.

The police used an isolated, full-security cell to hold their prisoner.

Their goal was to maintain the maximum degree of control over the presumed murderer, for Bero Cuac did not survive the attempts to save his life at the emergency medical center.

The Jaans asked many times to be allowed to see their jailed neighbor.

After several hours of pleas, Yapho and Tano obtained permission to see and talk with him. Police guards brought the prisoner into the room where visitors could have meetings with individuals in custody and kept jailed.

Ado was surprised at the exhausted, troubled expression on the faces of both the father and the son.

He sat down at a long table across from the Jaans and spoke first.

“I don’t know what came over me. It was like I wasn’t myself, as if I had become someone different.

“It happened so fast, in only a second or so. I’ll never be able to understand why I did it. Was I so angry at Beko that I had to kill him?”

Yapho was the one who reached out his hand and took the one of Ado.

“We have something that you must know,” said the father, glancing at his son.

Tano avoided looking directly at the prisoner. Instead, he gazed down at the smooth surface of the table.

“I was the one who smashed your hybrid system of aquaponics,” he mumbled in obvious shame. “My anger rose against what you were doing to the media system. It looked like you were selling out to the rafters by combining the two opposed methods.

“I couldn’t stand it. It seems that I lost control and acted like a destructive vandal against your water farm, Ado.

“My hope is that you can forgive me in your heart.”

Tano stared at Ado for several seconds, but could only see confusion and disorientation in his face.

“Let’s leave, Tano,” said the father. “I think that Ado wants to be alone so that he can think over and adjust to what you told him.”

Ado looked away as the two Jaans rose and a police guard left them out of the room.

The prisoner said and did nothing until another policeman came in and led him back to the holding cell where he was being kept in preparation for a murder trial.

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