As more countries search for a sustainable and reliable source of affordable organic protein or vegetables, they are increasingly turning to aquaculture or aquaponics, a sustainable food production system that combines raising fish in tanks with hydroponic gardening.
In response to this growing need, the University of Hawaii Aquaculture Program has launched a new online community outreach program called ATOLL: Aquaculture Training and Online Learning.
ATOLL will encourage more community members throughout the Pacific region to become aquatic farmers and knowledgeable about aquaponics. The program was created and is under the continuing jurisdiction of UH-Manoa Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education Gary Ostrander.
Supported by generous grants from NOAA, the ATOLL program consists of a unique web platform for the delivery of high-quality video training. This unique, non-credit course intends to improve food security in the region and is being offered via Outreach College.
The program, which launched in January, has thus far attracted over 160 students from 20 countries around the globe.
The program is the brainchild of Tetsuzan Benny Ron, PhD, Aquaculture Program coordinator at UH-Manoa. He is assisted by Barbara Payne McLain, PhD, a pioneer in distance education at the M?noa campus, who serves as project director.
They work with a team of dedicated expert faculty from the Manoa campus, including UH Sea Grant, as well as local farmers and representatives from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and University of Oregon Sea Grant.
"We are the first university attempting to teach aquaponics in an online setting at a reasonable cost," said McClain. "A few other online programs exist in the world, but they are very expensive. Our program is designed to be an affordable introduction to fish farming and aquaponics for everyone in island communities around the Pacific."
While broadly trying to improve food security in the region, the program hopes to attract students looking at careers in aquaculture, new workers on commercial fish farms, or community members who wish to start aquaponic gardens for quality home food production.