Aquaponics is gaining popularity in India, in terms of the understanding being expressed towards the science of its functioning. I speak from experience from recent interactions with entrepreneurs and farmers.
Independent urban/rural farm systems have been setup, in Goa, Bangalore, and Chennai. They are progressing well. You may these institutions on Facebook.
Now, the point on Tilapia and the reason behind its poor economics.
The rule of you are what you eat, extends to the fish world as well. The flavour of the fish is controlled by the water quality, aeration/DO levels, primary diet and environment(stocking density).
Tilapia in nature/ponds is at the bottom of the food chain and primarily behaves as a bottom feeder, feeding primarily on plankton, algae, decaying bio-matter etc. Those cultivated in fish farms in India are fed with algal blooms that are generated by pumping sewage, cattle manure or chicken intestines. In both cases the Tilapia seem physically healthy and show improved growth rates. However, these factors and poor bottom line feeding practices do not necessarily contribute positively to the taste of the fish.
In Aquaponics, features such as constant filtration, high DO levels and low stocking densities attribute to the tenderness of the fish and its high oil content which controls the nutritive value of the fish. Aeration in Indian aquaculture is still an absent practice in most farming operations. Levels higher than 8ppm are encouraged for good tasting fish. Furthermore, Aeration is to be determined based on stocking density, temperature, water pH, flow rates etc. This is one element that can completely turn around the quality or taste of the fish.
The fact that the fish feed investment plays a dual role of crop fertilizer and fish feed, allows for farmers to invest in the quality of fish feed, than look for cheaper alternates. Thus adding to the quality of the fish itself. This is why aquaponically grown fish rival some of the best tastes. Aquaponically grown Jade Perch, is said to bear resemblance in taste with wild Salmon. Tilapia grown in Aquaponics or RAS plants is also up there.
In our experience, the Middle East is an almost entirely seafood eating culture. They absolutely despise the taste of freshwater fish. However, 80% of our farm clientele in the Middle East comprises of the local population. This goes to show the characteristic of the fish grown under suitable conditions.
Thus taste is something that is controlled by the environment and need not entirely be attributed to the fish itself.
Also the economics of Tilapia grown in Aquaponics should be marketed by the first movers. Creating awareness with the consumer to break the norm associated with the species.
Even within the Tilapia fraternity, it should be understood that Nile varities versus the Mozambique are better tasting as they develop a more taste driven fat/muscle ratio.
So it comes to down to changing the perspective of the consumer and does involve some effort. This however is not as Himalayan a task as it may seem. Considering people are looking to eat tasty food.