10 Dec 2013

Aquaponics farm in American Samoa a success, with hopes to expand

5:49 pm on 10 December 2013

An aquaponics farming project in American Samoa has proved such a success there are hopes to start other projects in the territory.

The Centre for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture in Hawaii and the University of Hawaii are joint partners in the project.

The farm in Taputimu came about after a US$30,000 grant to Chief Apela Afoa to develop an aquaponics farm.

The Centre's Dr Cheng-Sheng Lee and the University's Dr Harry Ako, who provide technical support, were in the territory recently to conduct demonstrations on the benefits of aquaponic farming.

Dr Ako told Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor about the project.

HARRY AKO: What we're succeeding in doing is we've got an aquaponics project started in American Samoa and we've got the farmer to team up with some hydroponics folks. So they're growing vegetables and selling to the school lunch programme. There are other aquaponics projects in the pacific done by other people and actually I believe that we're the only commercial successful ones around in the world.

MOERA TUILAEPA-TAYLOR: Are you able to tell me a little bit about what it actually involves, the project?

HA: OK. So what you do is you grow fish, tilapia, and you feed them food. Then you take the fish water, which contains fish metabolites, and you run it through a grow bed where you have cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, Asian cabbages, whatever you want to grow, and those plants use the metabolites from the fish, after which point the water is returned to the fish.

MTT: Now, I know that there is hydroponics. What's the difference between hydroponics and aquaponics?

HA: In hydroponics you grow plants in fertilised water. So you get commercial fertiliser and you dissolve it in water and you grow the plants in that. In aquaponics you take fish metabolite water instead of water with chemical fertilisers.

MTT: And how long has the project been running in American Samoa?

HA: It's been a couple of years now, I think.

MTT: And in terms of selling it to the lunch programme, I suppose it's also beneficial to the local community, as well. Are they selling directly to the local people?

HA: Yeah, but put it this way, there's so much demand that you can hardly spread it around. The supermarkets want the aquaponics vegetables, but we don't have enough for them.

MTT: Are you hoping to maybe take the successful model in American Samoa to other places, then, in the Pacific?

HA: Yes.