University of Hawaii featured in Smithsonian Festival

Published On: Jun 18 2012 08:06:13 AM HST   Updated On: Jun 18 2012 09:15:24 AM HST

The University of Hawaii will be "greening up" Washington D.C., as part of a ten day festival that will showcase how indigenous culture mix with modern science.

The soothing sounds of trickling water in the school's Manoa garden are not for relaxation, but reassurance for those concerned about food self-reliance and sustainability.

"Most of our energy, most of our food is imported. We're running out of places to grow food, that is why this work is being done -- because we don't require soil," said Clyde Tamaru with the U.H.-Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture.

Students set up these aquaponics systems, which combines tank of fish paired with beds of organic produce. Pipes come out of the tanks and funnel water containing nutrient-filled fish waste to the plants. The plants use the waste to grow and in turn, the plants clean the water. The water is then recycled and sent back to the fish tanks.

This closed system only uses five percent of the water normally needed to grow produce and plants. And it doesn't just work in Hawaii.

"You can use aquaponics in the city. You can use it in the country. You could use it as long as you have some sun," said Leina'ala Bright, a Hawaiian Studies graduate student.

Students will show it can work anywhere by setting up a mini-aquaponics garden on the National Mall in Washington D.C., on June 27. The working display will be part of the Smithsonian Festival, an event where hundreds of thousands of visitors can see innovative programs from 20 different public U.S. universities.

While there are hopes Hawaii efforts will inspire others around the country to become food self-reliant, the work at the Manoa garden specifically aims to expand the state's agriculture industry -- without threatening the environment.

"We definitely can grow and eat our own food, all we have to do is choose to. Food sovereignty is the biggest and most powerful thing you can have for yourself and your family," said Ilima Ho-Lastimosa, a Hawaiian Studies student.

Along with the aquaponics garden, the university will also build a mini-taro patch and will hold demonstrations of non-instrument navigation with the Hawaiian star compass chart.

Native Hawaiian language, dance and healing practices will also be showcased.


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