UHWO Team Earns Aquaponics Prizes
It’s one thing to grow vegetables in a backyard garden. It’s another entirely to transform that action into a community-wide industry. But that’s exactly what UH-West Oahu-affiliated Ho’oulu Pacific aims to do with its Waimanalo Aquaponics project, which won top honors and $12,000 at Chaminade University’s Hogan Entrepreneurs/American Savings Bank Non-Profit Business Plan Competition in April.
“It meant a lot to us to be recognized locally and to be chosen as the best out of a great slate of nonprofit teams that were there, with very innovative projects,” said co-founder and UHWO student David Walfish. The team also won $25,000 as a finalist in the national Agricultural Innovation Prize at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in April.
Founded two years ago by Ilima Ho-Lastimosa, Eric Martinson, Keith Sakuda and Walfish, Ho’oulu Pacific sees modern aquaponics technology imbued with very traditional meaning in Waimanalo.
“The backyard aquaponics system is our newfangled traditional ahupuaa system,” said Ho-Lastimosa, noting that there’s “too much stuff in the way” to nurture the mountain-to-ocean system.
Ho’oulu Pacific believes its aquaculture system, which can grow native foods like kalo, is the best way to address today’s issues, such as diet-related obesity and diseases, rising sea levels and lack of suitable soil.
“The idea is people can grow enough in their backyard to feed their families and of course have this extra amount,” said Sakuda. “Individually, they can’t do much with that (small surplus). … But if we’re able to get all these families to network together, we can start to generate enough that as a group it becomes a marketable commodity.”
A business administration assistant professor at UHWO, Sakuda emphasized the importance of connecting business to agriculture; this is how the project will thrive. The team is focused on building a network to sell the backyard produce, and once it is sustainable, it will look to expand to other hubs like Waianae.
Ho’oulu Pacific also is in the process of distributing aquaponics models that can produce 2,000 pounds of produce and fish annually.
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