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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Hawaiian Resort Serves Fresh Fare through Hydroponics

Hawaiian Resort Serves Fresh Fare through Hydroponics

May 3, 2015 |

Photo credit: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa

Photo credit: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa

The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in Hawaii has all the amenities you would expect at a Hawaiian resort: a golf course, a pool, scenic ocean views. But there is also one amenity you wouldn’t expect— a hydroponic garden.

The garden, which was started through a collaboration between the resort and the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture, is located on a 4,000 square foot space that used to be the resort’s tennis court. It is comprised of two garden rows that grow seven different types of lettuce which are served at the resort’s restaurants and events.

The hydroponic garden is a reflection of the Grand Hyatt Kauai’s overall philosophy toward food which, in a hospitality field characterized by the usual mass produced fare, definitely makes the resort stand out. The Hyatt’s food philosophy (as stated on its website) is “Food. Thoughtfully sourced. Carefully Served.” The website also makes reference the hotel chain’s commitment to serving fresh, natural food and to working with local farmers and vendors.

According to the resort’s Marketing Manager Kaela Wold, the resort’s interest in sustainable food can also be traced back to the owner’s grand vision for the resort, which is to “contribute to society by passing on the best works to future generations.” They hope to realize this goal not only through contributing to a more sustainable food system but also by contributing to the education of Kauai’s youth. The resort currently offers two internships for Kauai Community College (KCC) students interested in working in the garden.

“We are committed to the education and training of our Kauai youth and are thrilled to provide a place where they can receive hands on learning,” Wold says. “The internships provide a valuable hands-on learning experience in both construction and the operation of a local, innovative food producing method.”

Notwithstanding the resorts grander goals of sustainable food and youth development, the most obvious and basic mission of the garden is to grow fresh food for resort guests. Wold says the resort chose to grow lettuce because it thrives in a hydroponic environment, and the garden currently has an expected output of 120 pounds of greens per week. The first harvest starts in February, and new lettuce crops are planted rotationally every three weeks to keep a consistent supply available.

Eventually, Wold says, the resort would like to establish a larger scale hydroponic initiative which would better represent its commitment to food sustainability. But at this point, any future expansion hinges entirely on the success of what they are currently doing. Since this is the garden’s first season, it is still too soon to predict exactly where the effort will take them in the future, but they have high hopes.

“We hope to expand and double the size based on the success of the pilot program and our produce needs,” says Wold.  “The hydroponics garden furthers both the resorts abundant flora as well as its sustainability initiatives.”

Regardless, of where the project leads, Wold says it is attracting attention to an important sustainability issue on the island— local food.  And while local food is an important issue no matter where you live, it has even more urgency in an island environment where most food is shipped in from the big island or mainland.

“It’s extremely important for businesses on the island in particular due to the cost of shipping alone,” says Wold. “This model of sustainable food production and this kind of diversified agriculture will help us increase our local food production capacity. It will assist in reducing costs while increasing freshness and availability.”

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