In the kumulipo or the Hawaiian creation chant, kalo is described as the plant from which Hawaiians were formed. Over 1,000 years ago Polynesian voyagers set out to find new land. The Polynesians brought sacred plants, and kalo was one of those sacred plants.
Kalo has had and continues to have a tremendous impact on the Hawaiian culture. Traditional Hawaiian farmers plant kalo in kalo patches and in theses kalo patches fish are used to protect and fertilize the plants, this is known as an early form of aquaponics. Aquaponics is a more sustainable and beneficial form of cultivating produce than traditional soil agriculture.
According to the Kumulipo, Papa and Wakea had a daughter named Ho?ohokukalani she became the most beautiful woman of all time. When she became an adult she became pregnant with Wakeas child named Haloa-naka, which means long quivering breath. Haloa naka, a stillborn was placed into the ground and from Haloa-naka grew kalo, a plant that has a long stem with big leaves that quavers in the wind. The Kalo that grew from Haloa-naka was used to feed the second born son also named Haloa, who was the first hawaiian man.
Hawaiians consider kalo a scared plant because they trace their lineage directly to Haloa. Aquaponics is a word that was invented in the 1970?s, however aquaponics and aquaponic systems has roots that go back to ancient times. There have been some debate of when aquaponics was first created, the earliest known example of aquaponics is in the ancient Mayan civilization followed by the Aztecs. Aztecs farmers had artificial, stationary islands and networks of canals called chinampas.
farmers would grow plants on rafts that would float on the surface of a lake. Another branch of aquaponics can be found in China, Thailand, and Indonesia, where the farming of rice in paddy fields combined with fish is an example of early aquaponics. Aquaponics can also be found in Hawai?i; kalo patches would often have fish to help fertilize and eat the insects that might destroy the kalo plants, so early Hawaiians did have some type of aquaponics. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, which is how it got its name.
Aquaculture, also known as fish and shellfish farming, raising, breeding, and the harvesting of plants and animals in all kinds of aquatic environments. Hydroponics is a type of agriculture that is strictly water based. Hydroponics excludes the need for soil, eliminating the possibility of people getting infected by soil borne illnesses. “Aquaponics is a food production method combining aquaculture with hydroponics in a closed-loop system that recirculates water and nutrients in order to grow aquatic life and terrestrial plants” (Goodman 9). The marine life and the plants share a mutualistic relationship, both benefiting from each other, all growing together.In an aquaponic system the fish begin by consuming food then they create waste. Their waste then are broken down by bacteria into nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia.
The broken down waste is then pumped up to the plants where the nutrients are absorbed by the roots. As the nutrient rich water travels through the roots the it is cleaned and filtered so it is safe for the fish to live in. To go further, there are certain fish that are omnivores, so when the plants are ready to be harvested, the leftover plants can be fed to the fish and the cycle can start over again. Aquaponics is a self sustainable method of agriculture that has many benefits.Aquaponics is a more sustainable form of growing plants than the traditional soil agriculture or any form of agriculture. In order for something to be sustainable it must help solve the current problem of a shortage of resources without using too much in return to make no difference at all or even cause a bigger problem (Martin 5). Also sustainability is something all farmers strive for because what farmers want to do is produce the most produce they possibly can and farmers want to make sure that what their doing to grow more produce isn’t harming the environment.
As explained previously, “Feed is introduced into the water for the aquatic animals. Water is filtered to remove residual biomass, while the ammonia content, coming from fish, is converted to nitrogen and used to irrigate plants. The water is pumped through a hydroponic subsystem where the plants absorb the nitrogen, making the water reusable for the aquatic animals” (Howland, Kim, Marks 15). If someone were to leave an aquaponic system running, and nothing were to break down the system could relatively continue growing produce forever. Water is a precious source for any form of agriculture because as you know pretty much all life needs water to live.
Aquaponics needs significantly less water than hydroponics, “Aquaponics solves one of the major problems of inorganic hydroponics in greenhouse production. This is disposal of waste water still containing nutrients” (Wilson 16). Hydroponics is a good method of growing produce, however it wastes a lot of water. In an hydroponic system the water is filled with chemicals and fertilizer of sorts that is beneficial for the plants being grown, but because there is all those chemicals in the water the plants can not filter the water completely. In the end of the hydroponic loop you end up with all this waste that no longer has any use for the hydroponic system, so the only thing you can do is dispose of the water and cycle in more water.
Since the plants in an aquaponic system filter the water there is really no need to add more water into the system. Another benefit aquaponics have over hydroponics is aquaponics mimics what is found in nature, so there is really no form of waste; with hydroponics a lot of fertilizer and chemicals are added, which is not natural. Since aquaponics uses less water aquaponic systems can be set up in places where traditional soil agriculture can’t occur. The fact is, aquaponics reduces water use tremendously. If you put 100 gallons in an aquaponic system that water can be cycled for a few weeks. However if that same water were used for traditional soil agriculture that water would be used once and lost in the soil, leaving the plants “thirsty” again.
A problem that has recently come up, including here in hawaii is the rat lungworm disease, “Humans (accidental host) become infected primarily in the same way that rats do, by ingesting snails or slugs infected with third stage larvae either deliberately or accidentally” (Cowie 2). “The parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis is responsible for the human disease known as rat lungworm disease, with symptoms ranging from mild headache, through a range of neurologically induced debilitation, to coma and occasionally death” (Chen, 1935). The symptoms all depend on the location of the parasite, how the host reacts to the parasite, and the number of parasites in the host (Cowie 5). In most aquaponic systems there is little to no soil involved, because of this aquaponics eliminates the possibility of people and produce getting infected with rat lungworm disease, as well as other soil borne illnesses. Some aquaponic systems replace soil with gravel, which helps clean the water as is passes through the plants roots and back into the fish tank. Some systems even have clay pebbles made specifically for aquaponics and holds on to beneficial nutrients better than soil.People often assume that soil has everything plants need to grow, this is true in most cases.
However in some places this misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. Soil must have the perfect balance of all the things necessary for plant life, soil also has to have the right texture to not hold too much or too little water. In order to get soil in the proper state for life, it requires other biology to intervene: composition, adding organic material, adding fertilizer, etcetera. In an aquaponic system plants do not have to grow their roots deeper to find the proper nutrients in order to grow, instead plants can spend all it’s time and energy growing itself to be harvested. Also the fish provide all the nutrients the plants need so plants do not need to compete each other over the resources available, this eliminates the elimination of smaller plants, giving them an equal chance to grow into maturity. In other words there is no need for soil in an aquaponic system and in some aspects, aquaponics is more beneficial for the survival of plants than found in the wild.In aquaponics, farmers are dealing with aquatic animals by-products or excrement. With in the cycle, excrement is broken down into ammonia, which in high quantities can be harmful to human’s.
As a result of this aquaponics is a very sensitive system to regulate. Touching the ammonia filled water or the media the plants grow in can contaminate your hands,”Do not touch the raft or the water underneath the raft during harvesting. That contaminates your hands or gloves with bacteria, which can then contaminate the produce” (Hollyer, Tamaru, Riggs, Bowen, Howerton, Okimoto, Castro, Tetsuzan, Fox, Troegner 3). Ammonia is a type of gas with a really pungent smell that dissolves in water.
Ammonia is a corrosive gas and when in contact with high concentrations in the air causes burning of the eyes and nose. So dealing with an aquaponic system is a sensitive task and proper health procedures should be taken while working with the ammonia filled water Aquaponics is also a very high maintenance, because aquaponics involves aquaculture farmers must constantly check the Ph levels in the fish tanks so it is safe enough for the fish to live yet “toxic” enough to fertilize the plants. Farmers must also clean the tanks periodically to insure that algae doesn’t grow or too much food does not settle on the bottom of the tank, this could possibly throw the Ph balances off, which in turn throws off the whole aquaponic system. Making sure that the water people use for aquaponics is clean so they do not contaminate the fish and or the produce.
Also farmers must make sure that the fish they raise must be free of any parasites that can be harmful to humans, because what you put in to raise your food is what you end up eating yourself. Farmers must always use water that is properly filtered for an aquaponic system because other water sources can and is known to carry harmful pathogens and parasites. (Hollyer, Tamaru, Riggs, Bowen, Howerton, Okimoto, Castro, Tetsuzan, Fox, Troegner 4).
When the water is run through the plant roots, not all of the waste is taken out of the water. The roots of plants only absorb the waste that has dissolved in the water, however there are some solid waste that ends up in the system that has not yet been decomposed enough for the plants to soak up. This is a problem because since the solid waste isn’t soaked up by the plants it is put back into the fish tank where it can make the water dangerously toxic for the fish.
As a result of this excessive but necessary filtration systems is necessary to clean the water in order for the fish to safely live in the water without having to constantly change the water, which in the end can lead to unnecessary water use. In conclusion aquaponics is a more sustainable and beneficial form of cultivating produce than traditional soil agriculture. Hawaiians grew kalo through aquaponics using fish to protect their plants. Aquaponics is important to the hawaiian culture because it was the source from which kalo was able to be grown and kalo plays such a big role in the traditional and modern hawaiian lifestyle. Brought over to Hawai?i, kalo was one of the most scared plants to the hawaiians. From the perspective of a hawaiian kalo isn’t just a plant, each individual kalo is a hawaiian ancestor tracing all the way back to Haloa the first hawaiian man.