Maui College to offer Aquaponics Entrepreneurship; Commercial Aquaponics Science

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System-wide online courses aimed at workforce technician certification

University of Hawaiʻi


UH CC Aquaponics Consortium Coordinator, Center on Disability Studies

Aquaponics business, entrepreneurship, and introduction to commercial aquaponics science courses begin Jan. 17, 2017 for backyard, small-scale and commercial entrepreneurs ready to enhance their understanding and learn more about aquaponics. They will cover both the aquaponics science of growing food in a soilless aquatic environment with fish, as well as the business applications the practice.

Both courses, which will be available for UH CC system-wide students, are part of a proposed aquaponics technician certification to fill the commercial aquaponics industry's need for technically trained workers.

The courses also aim to meet the needs of new aquaponics business owners who need training themselves to adopt required industry aligned methods, and meet food-safety and sanitation requirements. Business topics will include business-planning principles, marketing, and energy conservation of sustainable soil-less food production. Entrepreneurship, designing business models to monetize and create value, and the role aquaponics and these factors play into Hawaii’s island economy, will be addressed. Basic aspects of managing and marketing a business, including financial planning, operations, personnel, record keeping, budgeting, problem solving and more, will also be covered. 

Students will work in cohorts to explore small-scale production using applied aquaponics startup systems and operation of UHMC’s commercial greenhouse systems.

Leo Kaniela Caires, a sustainable energy expert, entrepreneur and Maui High School graduate, will instruct the course. Caires holds a bachelor's of science from the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as well as an MBA with emphasis in business entrepreneurship. He is completing his doctorate in leadership and management. 

Entrepreneurial thinking is being able to simplify complicated concepts, and create great experiences and opportunities for customers and the marketplace,” Caires said.

“The new greenhouse controlled environment will be a creative incubator for new aquaponics food production ventures—large and backyard scale—on Maui,” he said. “I’m excited to be involved in this emerging food production methodology on Maui.”

Caires added that soil-ess food production is emerging in much the same way that sustainable energy made its way into mainstream thinking. Aquaponics has a place in agribusiness diversity and the state’s changing food production landscape, he said.

Sustainable Science Management applied topics as they relate to aquaponics include: the scientific method; water chemistry and water quality testing; animal and plant selection for aquaponics systems aquaponics ecology; standard operating procedures and food security methods; and design and maintenance of aquaponics systems.

Registration is open until Jan. 13 and students may audit or sign up to earn credit toward an aquaponics technician certification. For students with day jobs, the course is offered online and in the evenings to include both weekly lectures and lab.

The hands-on lab opportunity will be conducted in the brand-new, commercial-scale, controlled-environment aquaponics greenhouse situated on the UH Maui College Kahului campus. Classes will give new entrepreneurs the opportunity to increase their understanding of fundamental concepts and applications in business start-ups, and early-stage agribusiness, to be applied in a real-world environment.

Maui high school students with aquaponics background are encourages to sign up for this “program of study” in Natural Resources Production, a Universal Design in Learning (UDL) partnership with the Hawaii Department of Education and the UH-Manoa College of Education.

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