Research and Development of Hydroponic Systems for the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2010: $24,872.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Northern Mariana Islands
Principal Investigator:
Valrick Welch
Nothern Marianas College

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: pineapples
  • Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, greens (leafy), onions, cucurbits, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: native plants, ornamentals


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, study circle, workshop, youth education, technical assistance
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, energy use, solar energy, wind power
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, cooperatives, marketing management, feasibility study, risk management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: disease vectors, genetic resistance, physical control, prevention, sanitation
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, infrastructure analysis, leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, public policy, analysis of personal/family life, employment opportunities, social networks, social psychological indicators, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    San Vicente Elementary School is on the island of Saipan; an island six thousand miles to the west of California, and three and a half hours flying time to the south of Japan. The San Vicente Aquaculture Science and Self-Reliant project is a project designed to improve the science understanding of elementary school children, start home aquaculture farms and gardens, and encourage new farm related businesses. The community members involved in the project believe that aquaculture and hydroponics offer potential solutions to the following problems: 1- Over fishing caused by a population of 70,000 people living on an island that can sustain approximately 2000 subsistence fishermen. 2-Damage to the reef and lagoons due to farm run-off 3-The high cost of fresh fruits and vegetables due to the cost of air freight and production. 4-The difficulty of controlling the invasive vines, rodents, insect pests and diseases. 5-The high rate of diabetes. 6-Lack of jobs. The owner of the two Saipan McDonald's, and the owner of the three Saipan Subways, and fifteen Subways on Guam, told the project director they would purchase vegetables locally, if they could get enough that meet their quality standards. Currently they are both purchasing their vegetables off-island, because the local producers cannot meet their standards and volume requirements. The San Vicente project combines aquaculture and hydroponics as a way to teach science to elementary school students, encourage home gardens and farms, and at the same time raise needed funds for a scholarship, and for educational materials. Currently several hydroponics units, on campus, are producing tomatoes, and a cloner is growing cuttings of fruit trees and flowers. The hydroponics tomatoes are high quality and there are no pests or weed problems; however, the volume is too small to supply McDonald's or Subway. The proposed solution is to outreach to the San Vicente community, through the elementary students, the advantages of hydroponics farming. Saipan needs at least 15 small hydroponics farms, or 5 to 7 large scale hydroponics farms to meet the volume requirements for either McDonald's or Subway. With 30 small hydroponics farms or 15 large hydroponics farms, both McDonalds's and Subway could be supplied. The outreach will include a hydroponics science fair. The goal will be to have 80 individual and group projects. All the projects will use the same basic design with only one change for the scientific variable. Some examples of variables might include: increasing the amount of air, change the nutrients, vary the amount of light, type of light, amount of moisture, temperature, environmental sound, location on the island, using fish waste as a nutrient, different types of holding mediums (coconut, rock wool, sand), or any number of other variables the students will come up with. From the science projects important answers to the following questions should be answered: 1-What is the most productive amount of sunlight, compared to the cooling benefits of a sun shade? 2-Can the island water provided by the local utilities company be used for hydroponics with its high salt content? 3-Can fish waste be substituted for nutrient solution in hydroponics systems? 4-Are there plants that will grow using only fish waste? 5-What plants grow best in hydroponics systems in the Saipan environment? 6-What are the better areas, on Saipan, for hydroponics farming? The experiments are expected to raise a lot more questions about the feasibility of hydroponics farming through questions raised by students as they conduct their experiments; which will lead to further research and experiments. The 10 science fair projects that show the most promise for hydroponics farming, on Saipan, will be featured in an informational brochure. The brochure will be 10 pages, with one page for each of the ten projects, with 1000 brochures to be printed. The brochures will be available to teachers in the public school system, to San Vicente community members, and any others who request them. A donation of $2.50 will be requested for each pamphlet, with the donations going towards the printing of more brochures.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project includes three main objectives:
    1) Hold a science fair with 80 different hydroponics experiments: San Vicente Elementary School has 645 students , so that is only one in eight students. Students will be given the choice of doing an individual project or working in a group.

    2) Through the experiments and research select the best 10 hydroponic methods that show the most promise for competitive, efficient, and environmentally friendly hydroponics production.

    3) Print 1000, 10 page brochures on the 10 best hydroponics farming methods for dissemination to San Vicente teachers, community members, other teachers, and anyone else interested in hydroponics. A $2.50 donation for each brochure will be requested with the money going towards the purchase of more pamphlets. This will allow the printing of enough brochures for everyone interested in learning about hydroponics farming on Saipan. Each brochure will give credit to Western SARE for its support in producing the brochure.

    Hydroponics is highly sustainable as there is no need for crop rotation, tilling of the soil, or herbicides and pesticides. The medium for the hydroponis is coconut husks, which can last more than five years, and Saipan has plenty of coconuts. The experiments will provide information on the feasibility of using fish waste as a hydroponic nutrient, as well as the effects of brackish water on hydroponically grown plants. This will allow less use of commercially produced nutrient solution, and will make aquaculture more profitable, which in turn will reduce the st4ress placed on the ocean fish resources. The experiments are expected to find energy effieient hydroponic designes as well as renewable energy designs. This project has the potential to assist the residents of Saipan to become more self-reliant, healthier, and more productive farmers that are environmentally friendly.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.