Cook Islands Using Aquaponics for Fresh Fish and Organic Veggies
The Cook Islands are known as the best-kept secret in the Pacific. You won’t see high-rise buildings or flocks of tourists here but miles of white sandy beaches and blue lagoons. The set of islands located between Hawaii and New Zealand might be unspoiled by tourism but are prime targets for climate change effects like droughts, rising sea levels, and fish poisoning. This has led the tropical region to undergo an aquaponics experiment, which could become a great method of preventing future food shortages.
What is Aquaculture?
Aquaculture is a strategy that involves a mixture of both hydroponics and aquaponics. It’s a sustainable way to grow food using the two methods in symbiosis. The aqua part consists of raising animals in tanks (like snails, fish, crayfish or prawns) while the hydro part involves cultivating plants in water.
How does it work?
The closed recirculation system results in a buildup of effluents, or waste, in the animals tanks. The buildup consists of uneaten feed and animal waste. While effluent-rich water is toxic to fish and other animals in high concentrations, it is extremely beneficial for plant growth. The waste-laden water is then pumped to the growing plants, which then suck up all the nutrients that they need to thrive. That same water is then cleaned, filtered, and pumped back into the animal tanks essentially coming full circle making it a truly sustainable way to grow food. Aquaponics is applauded by greenies because it involves using little water and zero pesticides.
Over the past 3 months, the Cook Islands project has been able to successfully grow veggies using aquaponics, which emulates a natural ecosystem. The result is sustainably grown fish and chemical-free produce that takes just 2% the amount of water to grow compared to traditional agriculture. Another benefit is that it has no impact on the health of the environment in the lagoon.
The long-term goals for the project in the Cook Islands are to ensure food security and nutrition needs for the people of the South Pacific region. The Cook Islands aquaponics project, also named the green living water garden, also aims to educate locals about the system and how it works. They hope it will eventually turn into a sort of “sanctuary” where people can walk around and purchase flowers and vegetables that were grown there. Outside assistance was received from Pacific Islands Trade and Investments and the Ministry of Aquaculture. The associate minister of agriculture, Kiriau Turepu, spoke at their opening event,
“To me, aquaponics is the way for us forward. Even if were looking into going into commercial production we can use this system to offset some our imports into the island.”
After two years of talking about it and three months of hard work putting it together the vision has finally become a reality. The project hopes to set a great example for other islands and thinks the idea will take off with lightening speed.
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