Aquaculture farm in Ellison’s Lanai plans

It’s no secret that billionaire Larry Ellison has initiated a number of changes to Lanai ever since he bought 98 percent of the island in 2012. One of his latest initiatives currently on the table is the use of aquaculture to produce locally grown vegetables and fish to sustain residents and visitors.

Ellison plans to build the aquaculture farm – four green-houses and a half-acre of bio-beds – at the former piggery site in Palawai Basin, according to information circulated at a community meeting last month. The meeting, hosted by Ellison’s Pulama Lanai, also addressed other topics including the proposed desalination plant, natural resources, cultural resources, restoration of the Lanai Theater and the addition of a hospice.

By using both aquaponics and hydroponics systems, which produce crops without the use of soil, the aquaculture farm will be able to conserve water, requiring only 5 to 10 percent of the water usually needed to grow an equivalent amount of produce in soil, the group said.

Aquaponics integrates a fish farm with agriculture production. The system is a self-sustaining model because the trimmings and waste from the plants feed the fish while fish waste adds nutrients to the water used to irrigate the plants. As a result, residents will be able to eat both fresh produce and fresh fish.

Hydroponics involves the growing of plants in a controlled environment without soil. Because there are no fish to add essential mineral nutrients to the water, the nutrients must be added by hand.

Pulama Lanai hopes to have the first phase of the farm completed by late summer.

A spokeswoman for Pulama Lanai declined to comment further on the project this week because “it’s just in the very early phases . . . Nothing has been built yet.”