Sometime late this summer, Lanai residents may be enjoying the first crop of fresh, Lanai-grown vegetables and fish on their dinner tables.
Work will soon begin to convert the former piggery in Palawai Basin into an aquaculture farm that will grow produce for consumption by island residents. Aquaponics and hydroponics will both be part of the facility.
Aquaponics and hydroponics are both soil-free methods of cultivating crops. The difference is that aquaponics integrates the process of cultivating fish to create a balanced ecosystem. Fish waste adds nutrients to the water that nourish plants. Meanwhile, waste and trimmings from plants are used to feed the fish, which will also be farmed and sold at markets on the island.
In hydroponics, fish aren’t used so nutrients must be manually added to the water.
Planners are now working to determine the size of the facility and the kind of produce and fish that will do best on Lanai. Tilapia and perch are commonly used in aquaponics systems, but the operations team will be experimenting and making adjustments, accordingly, in the early stages.
One thing is certain. Both technologies are highly efficient in conserving water, requiring only five to 10 percent of the water needed to grow an equivalent amount of produce in soil. Initial work at the piggery will include knocking down concrete stalls where pigs were kept and creating a new surface for greenhouses and fish tanks.