Hawaii project aims to revolutionize sustainable aquaculture

The Velella Mariculture Research Project is testing an unachored drifter pen in Federal waters (3-150 miles offshore) off the Big Island of Hawaii. This innovative form of mariculture - growing fish in the open ocean - uses cutting edge technology and leaves no environmental footprint. The Velella Project could revolutionize sustainable aquaculture
August 30, 2011

Marine biologists and environmentalists at Hawai'i's Kampachi Farms are committed to answering the question of how to grow more fish in their natural marine environment without affecting pristine ocean ecosystems. Together with other conservation-minded stakeholders from science, technology, and sustainable agriculture, Kampachi Farms is conducting a research project that explores new Aquapod technology (submersible brass mesh net pens) and innovative fish production systems. The research project explores the potential of raising fish in their natural environment with virtually no environmental impact on the underlying seafloor, surrounding water quality, or wild fish outside the Aquapod.

One small Aquapod (22’ in diameter), tethered to a manned sailing vessel, has been deployed in the deep open ocean, in Federal waters, and is drifting in eddies off the west coast of the Big Island of Hawai'i,  from three to more than 150 miles offshore. The tender vessel’s engines are used minimally to correct course, as the array floats, in constant movement, on powerful ocean currents. The Aquapod is stocked with native Kona Kampachi - the same fish that are grown at the Keahole Point offshore farm site. These fish are all hatchery-reared. The fish will be fed the same sustainable diets that are fed to the fish at the Keahole Point site.  These diets have replaced significant amounts of fishmeal and fish oil with soy and other sustainable agricultural proteins.

The sailing vessel has marine biologists on board to monitor and feed the fish, and maintain data logs. A GPS system tracks the vessel’s drift and transmits data to land-based research headquarters.

"This technology has the potential to revolutionize sustainable fish farming, making it the most environmentally-friendly, impact-free form of food production on the planet", Niel Sims, Co-founder and co-CEO of Kampach Farms.  "Positive results from this research offers vast potential for increasing a healthy seafood supply while protecting our ocean resources".