The Age of Aquaponics

The Age of Aquaponics

The Age of Aquaponics

The Future of Farming

Camille Wong | Aug 31, 2017

The Age of Aquaponics

Aquaponics- not a word that first comes to mind when you think of farming, but one you should definitely know. While it sounds very modern and scientific, aquaponics has been utilized to grow food since the days of ancient civilization.

In 6th century China, rice paddies served as an early version of aquaponics. Ducks would float around in the paddies, eating fish and insects. The duck waste would then be eaten by the fish, and the fish waste would then be broken down by bacteria, into a nutrient. The nutrient was then absorbed by the plant. With this natural fertilizer, the rice paddies would thrive.

Thousands of years later, the Aztecs adapted to swamp land surrounding their capital by building chinampas- large floating islands made of mud, decomposed plants and woven reeds. As the swamp land was already flourishing with fish life and nutrient rich water, the crops that were grown on the chinampas produced great amounts of food for generations to come.

Fast forward to the year 1969. A foundation called The New Alchemy Institute created the first known mainstream example of aquaponics, a huge bioshelter which they called “The Ark”. From there the system would go through about three major developments in the 80’s and 90’s by farmers, professors and doctors, before taking off as a hobby and for commercial use.

Now in the 2000s, sustainability is a focus for both consumer and producer, and aquaponics couldn’t be more relevant.

Enter Kunia Country Farms. Located in central O’ahu, between Mililani and Wahiawa, this locally-owned farm began operations in 2010. At two acres, it is one of the largest aquaponics farms and producers of leafy greens in the state of Hawai'i.

Now in the 2000's, sustainability is a focus for both consumer and producer, and aquaponics couldn't be more relevant.

Their deep water culture (DWC) or raft aquaponics starts with six fish tanks, housing hormone-free Tilapia. The tanks are connected to 20 growing troughs, which are filled with water about 10 to 12 inches deep, and able to grow up to 3,300 plants, depending on the variety. The growing troughs are then connected back to fish tanks, creating a giant recirculation of nutrient rich water between fish and plants. As long as the fish are fed, the seeds are planted and an occasional iron, calcium and potassium input are made, then the symbiotic relationship lasts. And the best part of it all? Everything is built above ground and easily movable. According to their website, this means that it could even be built on an asphalt parking lot! No soil depletion, chemicals or sprays needed, no worrying about what was previously in the soil either!

In addition to their aquaponics, Kunia Country Farms operates with a goal of zero impact farming, meaning they aim to make the smallest amount of impact on the environment in all they do. Their farm materials are reusable, growable and organic, their electricity is powered through one pump, two blowers and one reefer, and they have plans to install a photovoltaic system as well.

Last but not least, twice a week in the early morning, the plants are harvested and refrigerated within 20 minutes of their stem being cut. They are then packaged the same day and sent out to restaurants and distributors within 48 hours, to be enjoyed island wide.

At 7-Eleven Hawai'i, we couldn’t be more excited in working with Kunia Country Farms. Their crunchy Manoa lettuce is a key ingredient in our Craft sandwiches, which we are scheduled to bring back soon. We hope you get to stop by and choose one, and as you munch away, remember the special ecosystem that produced a part of your sandwich.