A Growing Partnership With Students

An internship program for Kauai Community College students has resulted in a bountiful harvest for the South Shore resort

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa recently transformed one of its tennis courts into a hydroponic garden that is supplying its employees and restaurants with fresh produce.

“It provided a great, clean, controlled environment for the garden to be established,” says Diann Hartman, the resort’s director of public relations, while explaining the garden’s unlikely location.

The produce, currently lettuce, is grown in a soil-free environment consisting of nutrient-rich water. The 4,000-square-foot former tennis court cost more than $300,000 to convert and has thus far been deemed a worthwhile investment.

“This provides the absolute freshest of greens for our guests and associates to enjoy, picked at the optimal time so they are full of nutrients,” says Hartman. “The project furthers our environmental initiatives by improving our sustainable practices.”

The South Shore resort has a tradition of adhering to as many sustainable practices as possible, including using renewable energy from photovoltaic panels. The garden was a concept of its owner, Kawailoa Development (a subsidiary of Takenaka Corporation from Japan). It was able to collaborate with Kauai Community College’s Ho‘ouluwehi Sustainable Living Institute, and is sponsoring internships for two of the school’s students. The KCC interns have the opportunity to work in the garden and learn what it takes to run a local food operation, thereby encouraging even more people to embrace the farming technique.

“We have been in discussions with the Sustainability Institute over the past few years about a number of possible projects, from aquaponics to bee-keeping,” says Hartman. “This one seemed to be the best first project that we could partner with them on.”

The interns did everything from building the structure, installing the garden and training the resort’s employees on how to run the operation. The work started last September, beginning with seven types of lettuce that were first harvested in February. New starts will be planted every three weeks, and the goal is to supply the hotel with an array of vegetables, including cucumbers and tomatoes. The total output is expected to be about 120 pounds of produce each week.

What’s most gratifying about the hydroponic system, aside from reducing the amount of food that must be imported, is being able to serve fresh greens grown only a short distance away and, adds Hartman, “knowing that we’re offering a unique dining experience for our guests.”

The resort has plans to lighten its footprint even more in the years to come with ongoing projects, such as installing more photo-voltaic panels that potentially could cover the main parking lot and provide additional clean energy.

Visit kauai.hyatt.com/en/hotel/news-and-events/news-listing/greeninitiatives.html for more information about Hyatt’s “green initiatives.”