The most expensive fish tank in Crookes?

A local community farm is in the final rounds of winning a £5000 grant for an environmentally sustainable fish feature.

Twins Chris and Rob Downham, aged 42, have reached the finals of the Aviva Community Fund in a bid to introduce aquaponics to their community farm.

Crookes Community farm began with the Downham twins, who aimed to inspire and educate people about growing food in a healthy and environmentally-beneficial way. They hope the aquaponics tank will be the latest homemade feature.

Aquaponics is the cultivation of fish and use of their waste as a natural fertiliser for hydroponic plants – plants grown in water – which in turn filters the water for the fish.

Rob said the system uses only 10% of the water of traditional agriculture and will be self-sufficient. He believes the introduction of aquaponics will act as an educational tool to children and community organisations of Crookes.

The Aviva Community Fund is a three-stage process where applicants declare a certain bracket of funding needed, pitch their idea online and then it is published for the public to vote. Crookes’ Community Farm gained 1702 votes for their Aquaponics setup, submitted by the financial advisors Optimum FS Limited, and were announced finalists in November.

Chris and Rob must now wait until January as a panel of judges review their proposal, along with others, and decide whether the twins will be awarded the £5000 to build the aquaponics tank.

Chris said, “If we didn’t get it at all it will still happen. It’ll just happen in the way that everything else has happened.

“The sort of guys we are is that you make it happen. What we’d love is the community support.

“But if it was easy it would be no fun”, he added.

The Downham twins are no strangers to asking for investment. The ex-property managers, who both attended the University of Sheffield, were called “the chuckle brothers” by Theo Paphitis on Dragon’s Den back in 2009. With already six different businesses in property finance, the two then appeared on the show to ask for the rather larger sum of £100,000 to invest in ‘My Finance Safe’.

They were one of Insider’s ’42 under 42 young entrepreneurs’, and named young mortgage advisers of the year in 2005. In 2007, their venture GeshaView resort, named Bulgaria’s first eco-tourist village, won international property award.

Yet when they found themselves bankrupt, they decided on a major change.

Chris said, “We hadn’t really any idea what we wanted to do but we knew it had to be something that was purposeful and that we were passionate about”. “Part of a mid-life crisis I think”.

After acquiring the land from a friend as a “cathartic” hobby, Chris and Rob have transformed the once eight-foot overgrown land into a home for plants, crops, and chickens.

Chris said, “Food sovereignty is a growing thing at the moment.

“It’s about putting people back in touch with their food so children don’t just think cucumbers grow in cellophane on shelves and how things are actually grown, and putting people in touch with the producers”.