The new Rota Aquaponic Education and Training Center that opened on Rota in July is where “hydroponic and aquaculture become one,” according to Jack Igisair, a Department of Lands and Natural Resources employee.
The center holds over 200 white and blue tilapia, whose waste provides nutrients for the variety of crops being grown there: taro, white ginger, corn, tomatoes, bell pepper, eggplant, Chinese cabbage, green onions, pineapples, and cucumber.
Igisair explained that the fish are the main concern in a combined hydroponic and aquaculture system and the new center combines aspects of both methods of growing crops and fish.
Under this method, crops and fish are both raised in a recirculating system. Using gravity to its advantage, water is drained from the fish tank and brought to the “beds” where the plants are and the waste—rich in nutrients—flow through the bed and fertilize the roots of the plants. The solid waste is filtered by the plants’ roots and the water is recycled back into the fish tank.
Igisair shared that on a normal day all he needs to do is to check on the plants, feed the fish, and make sure that the water’s pH level stays between 6.8 and 7.
Rota Mayor Melchor Mendiola told Saipan Tribune in a separate interview that the center was made possible by a $260,000 grant through the U.S. Department of the Interior and has had five local resident certified to teach and run the program.
Mendiola said his office, along with DLNR, departments of Commerce and Public Works, and NMC-CREES, plan to bring the science of the Aquaponics Center into people’s back yards and hopefully bring it to a commercial level.
Igisair took care of the center last Friday on his own but alternates shifts every week with the others who participated in a four-month training program in Hawaii: Gus Maratita, Harry Mendiola, David Calvo, and Jimmy Apatang.
The center is open in Sinapalo five days a week from 7:30am to 4:30pm.
“Anyone can come anytime and we can teach them. We also provide technical assistance. Our main goal is to show the people that we can build a system with low electricity,” Igisair said.
How much electricity exactly? Just enough to light a light bulb.