Aquaponics vs. garden-grown a near draw, Friday

PUHI — Eric Knutzen of the Kaua‘i Community College Ho‘ouluwehi, or sustainability program, was anxious to see how a blind taste test involving aquaponics grown and garden grown produce would come out, Friday morning.

This is the first time a taste test involving various professionals in the culinary arts trade was conducted and joining Knutzen were Glenn Hontz of the Community Gardens program, Bruce Getzhan of the Office of Continuing Education and Training and Chancellor Helen Cox along with Randall Francisco of the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce and Wanda Kau-Shibata, the governor’s liason.

Knutzen said the panelists, Russell Stokes, the founder of Kaua‘i Pasta, Chef Guy Higa, the Executive Chef at the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort and Beach Club, Katie Paul, who started a local produce distribution company, and Collin Darrell of Grow Culture, a facilitator between farms, chefs, and the various aspects of resort, would compare three different types of lettuce, each type having a sample from the garden and a sample from the aquaponics facility.

Using a tasting sheet which included categories for Place of Origin, Appearance, Aroma, Flavor, Finish, and optionally, Beverage Pairing. Grading in each category ranged from 1 through 10, with 10 being the highest score.

Knutzen and Zoli Wall, the planting manager for the KCC garden and aquaponics, collected the samples just minutes before the arrival of the testers and set them aside so the tasters would not know the source of the lettuce.

Of the three types tested, the Green Oak Leaf, a green leaf variety, finished with a score of 136 for aquaponics and 122 points for garden, the only variety where aquaponics outscored garden.

The other two types, a Red Cherokee, a green leaf tipped with red, and the Red Oak Leaf, saw scores of 123 points aquaponics and 138 points for garden for the Red Cherokee.

This clearly favored the garden-grown variety.

The third type, the Red Oak Leaf, was almost a draw, the variety collecting 120 points for aquaponics and 123 points for garden.

Panelists, in discussing the tests with Knutzen and the gathered guests, indicated future tests should involve root vegetables such as carrots, radishes and beets while others suggested having a nutrition test comparison done by the University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Other comments related to the Kaua‘i Community Market which is hosted Saturdays through a partnership with the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau, several of the panelists curious about remarks from customers on the produce being sold from the KCC facilities.

Knutzen said this was the first time such a test was conducted and promised a more thorough breakdown of the scores.

Visit and follow the links to OCET for more information on the Ho‘ouluwehi, the sustainable living institute of Kaua‘i.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@


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