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Providing for the Voyage

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 08/05/2013 More stories >>

Hikianalia anchored in Honokanai‘a Bay, Kaho‘olawe.

Hikianalia anchored in Honokanai‘a Bay, Kaho‘olawe. (Photo credit: ‘Ō IWI-TV, courtesy of Polynesian Voyaging Society)

The Polynesian Voyaging Society, which made history and captured the hearts and imagination of so many throughout the Islands with their construction and sailing of the iconic Hōkūlei‘a, is setting forth on a new journey, with a new voyaging canoe, and CTAHR is going along for the ride. Growing systems created by researchers and extension agents in the College have been installed in the hull of the newly launched Hikianalia, which crewmembers will tend and use to supplement their diets throughout the vessel’s yearlong interisland “test cruise” and then on its three-year circumnavigation of the globe.

CTAHR alumna Miki Tomita (BA Biosystems Engineering) and extension agent Jensen Uyeda install a sweet potato soil bag planter in tight quarters aboard the Hikianalia

CTAHR alumna Miki Tomita (BA Biosystems Engineering) and extension agent Jensen Uyeda install a sweet potato soil bag planter in tight quarters aboard the Hikianalia. (Photo: Bradley “Kai” Fox)

On long ocean voyages, fresh food is always an issue. Sailors used to succumb to scurvy; nowadays they resort to canned or dehydrated foods that may keep nutrient-deficiency diseases at bay but lack taste and optimal nutrition. Clyde Tamaru and Bradley “Kai” Fox (both MBBE), Jari Sugano (PEPS), and Jensen Uyeda (TPSS) each contributed to creating, refining, and installing the sustainable and efficient alternative sources of fresh greens this crew will benefit from, including a hanging soil bag for growing sweet potato, which provides tasty and nutritious shoots and leaves as well as the slowergrowing tubers. A specialized hydroponic system for growing microgreens will be installed as well when the vessel is in dry dock in mid-August.

But the project is concerned with the nutritional needs not only of the crew but also of a much larger segment of society. As access to available growing space, fresh water, and fertile soil lessens worldwide, the Hikianalia’s space-efficient and water- and energy-saving systems provide a powerful illustration of how much can be done in a small space with a very limited amount of fresh water. Hydroponic systems such as these will therefore also serve as a prototype for growers at the Hikianalia’s ports of call, allowing people to gain the inspiration and technical knowledge to create similar systems themselves. For if, as master navigator Nainoa Thompson says, we are all members of the crew on the tiny, self-contained canoe called the Earth, we must learn to conserve and use our limited resources with care and respect.