The Ascension Island Government has officially opened a hydroponics site to produce good quality veg and salad crops for sale to the people of Ascension. The site is located below Two Boats and has been developed by AIG’s Hydroponics Consultant, Stephen Herron. The hydroponics site welcomed over 150 people through its doors over the ‘open’ weekend of 25-26 June 2016 to allow the wider community to find out more about how the veg is grown and what is available. Feedback from the visitors was very overwhelmingly positive. The Administrator and Stephen Herron then officially declared the site open at a well-attended launch event on Monday 27 June, with representatives from across the island community present.
Securing a supply of fresh salad and vegetable produce for the island has been high on the Government’s priorities. Up to now, islanders have relied on the monthly call of the RMS St Helena for a limited supply of fruit and veg from South Africa. With the future decommissioning of the RMS, there was a real concern about the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables on the island.
Marc Holland, Ascension Administrator, commented “AIG fully acknowledges the importance of fresh produce for the health and wellbeing of the people working on Ascension. Hydroponics allows us to take advantage of the Island’s benign climate to produce our own veg on island. Local production means fresher veg, lower prices and a constant supply.”
Following a handover from consultant Stephen Herron, Ascension Hydroponic Services will now be headed up by the Site Manager, Regan Tourond, who has recently arrived on island. Regan has substantial growing experience around the world including in Canada and South-East Asia. Regan said: ‘This is not the first time Ascension has been home to hydroponics and the stable climate makes this a great place to grow using this system’.
How does hydroponics work?
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. This allows for very efficient growing conditions, as the plants are not threatened by the pests and disease that can be found in the soil and the process actually uses less water than traditional farming, as none of it is absorbed into the soil.
Currently the site is using mains water to grow the produce; in the future we would like to use collected rain water to assist in this process.
Mixed salad, baby leaf lettuce and Pak Choi make up the main produce grown currently. These crops have a quick turnaround and are straight forward to grow. AIG will be looking to expand the selection available in the near future, once the collection of rainwater has been established. This will allow for the growth of more water-hungry produce such as root vegetables and fruit. The produce will be sold from Solomon’s Georgetown store and from JAMS in Two Boats and to the Island’s clubs and food outlets. A delivery schedule will be arranged with the stores and clubs to ensure a continuous supply.
AIG 28 June 2016