Aquaponics Project Off to a Big Splash!Hospice Employees Take on Quality of Life Center Project

by Nathan Hokama

When it comes to our food supply, we’ve all read that we should “buy local.” It’s fresher and more nutritious because of the reduced transportation time from farm to our table, and there is a much smaller carbon footprint because there is no shipping involved.

aquaponicsA team of St. Francis Hospice employees has taken this advice to heart and has started growing their own food. When the St. Francis Quality of Life Center first announced the opportunity to start the aquaponics project, the hospice team was among the first to enthusiastically sign up. Emma Cabanas, Mindy Lopez, Reymar Alegre, Iris Gushikuma-Seino, of St. Francis-Hospice-West and Jeff Cabias of St. Francis Hospice-Nuuanu are the team members that currently manage the aquaponics project.

Susan Hashimoto, Director of the Quality of Life Center, said the aquaponics unit is located near St. Francis Hospice-West because there is a lot of sun and open space in Ewa. She also noted that because it requires a daily commitment to care for the plants and fish, the hospice team would be ideal since employees are there every day of the week.

According to Aquapono, which distributes the units, the team’s responsibilities include adding iron chelate to the water for the plant beds, adding bio-digester liquid, and spraying a molasses solution on the plants every two weeks; checking the PH levels, nitrates and other measurements on a weekly basis; feeding the fish twice a day, in the morning and afternoon; and making sure the pump is working properly each day.

Their diligence will soon have a pay off. “The plants are growing nicely and we are expecting them to be beautiful and green and ready to harvest in the New Year,” Susan said.

The aquaponics project was funded by a donation from Sr. Geraldine (Agnelle) Ching, OSF, and the St. Francis Healthcare Foundation.

Photos by Amy Jose, Health Educator with the St. Francis Healthy Lifestyle Program (HeLP).