On the tiny Caribbean island of Anguilla, one luxury resort uses freshly supplied produce grown in its own pesticide-free, hydroponic farm.
By Christine Brown-Paul
A British Overseas Territory in the Eastern Caribbean, Anguilla comprises a small main island and several offshore islets. Its beaches range from long sandy stretches like Rendezvous Bay, overlooking neighbouring Saint Martin island, to secluded coves reached by boat, such as at Little Bay. Protected areas include Big Spring Cave, known for its prehistoric petroglyphs, and East End Pond, a wildlife conservation site.
While consumerism continues to degrade the many beauty spots scattered throughout the Caribbean, Anguilla has managed to maintain both its historical and natural charm, while embracing traces of post-modernity in recent vacation properties. Although these recent developments have facilitated more convenient tourism, Anguilla remains an irresistible setting of genuine island
life. While a blissful getaway, however, the island faces major challenges in obtaining accessibility of fresh food sources.
Relying on North America or Europe (via St. Maarten) for all of its food imports, for Anguilla, receiving processed and non-perishables is not the issue. Acquiring fresh fruits and veggies, however, is a little more complex, as their quality can become greatly reduced by long periods of shipment.
One island resort, however, has solved this problem. Nestled in the heart of this paradise is the luxury resort of CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, which boasts the claim of being the only Caribbean resort housing its own pesticide free, hydroponic farm.
Beyond the resort’s pool and beach there is a championship golf course, tennis courts, bike rentals and cooking classes offered to all guests. A fitness trainer is on hand for yoga classes or an early morning boot camp session for guilt-free indulgence later in the day.
Going hydroponic in Anguilla
The 18,000-square-foot hydroponic farm incorporates two lettuce ponds; vine crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant; and a large variety of herbs, all housed in a hurricane-proof greenhouse. Leaving nothing to waste, the nutrient-rich drainage water from the farm is recycled to feed the landscaped gardens ensuring year-round lush, vibrant flowers and tropical plants that
complement the resort’s whitewashed buildings. The grounds of the 275-acre resort are spectacular, and lead to a pristine white sand beach that stretches for two miles.
The hydroponic operations at CuisinArt were first set up in 1999 by eminent hydroponic expert, Dr Howard Resh PhD whose interest in hydroponics goes back to the 1970s when he was a graduate student at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Following graduation, he taught at the university for three years, but left to pursue his interest in the commercial aspects of hydroponics.
Later, Dr Resh became involved in many international hydroponic projects in Canada, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Venezuala, United States, Tortola and Anguilla. He has designed outdoor and greenhouse hydroponic systems as well as developing new hydroponic concepts and systems.
Author of Hydroponic Food Production, Dr Resh has been Hydroponic Farm Manager at CuisinArt since the project
“Nothing is left to chance at this soilless growing operation. Greenhouses are hurricane resistant, the water comes from a desalinisation plant, and the excess growth and greenery is composted when discarded while decontamination rooms keep unwanted bacteria and insects out of the greenhouses,” Dr Resh said.
“We use a greenhouse from Agra Tech, designed to withstand hurricanes, because that is an issue here in Anguilla.
“Some hydroponic crops grown include: beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, picolino tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, red, orange and yellow peppers, bok choy, a variety of lettuces, basil, arugula, Italian and moss-curled parsley, chervil, watercress, chives, mint, oregano, dill, thyme, sweet marjoram, string beans and broccoli raab and even edible nasturtiums and violas.
“Using CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa as a model, I propose that other resorts throughout the world consider a hydroponic farm as a similar component of their operations. The concept is to provide resorts with very nutritious and flavourful vegetable crops that are clean and safe. With the implementation of Integrated Pest
Management [IPM] the vegetables are pesticide free. This will overcome guests’ fear of getting ill during their vacation and overcome their avoidance of salads as is often the case in many areas where resorts exist,” Dr Resh said.
“The integration of a Hydroponic Farm into a resort permits chefs to emphasise nutritious salads on their menus. They may demonstrate in cooking classes many uses of these vegetables including natural juices and even cocktails.
“Health spas combining exercise and treatment programs with nutrition as a part of a ‘wellness’ program utilise the fresh salad crops. An example of this is a fresh tomato or cucumber facial and skin wrap. Herbs such as lavender are part of lotions for cleansing our skin. Healthful, nutritious diets upon which are based the menus of the restaurants are part of this overall wellness
concept. As travellers become more aware of the source and quality of the food they eat in these resort areas, a deciding factor in their choice of a resort destination will be a healthful, safe diet,” he said.
“At CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, our Hydroponic Farm is harvested at its optimum ripened stage to give the guests that distinguished ‘backyard garden’ flavour, making a lasting impression with them.
“The aim of the Hydroponic Farm is that it is one unique component of the resort that when combined with the beautiful landscape and beach surroundings, friendly and efficient service, healthful food, with the exercise/care programs of the spa, our guests will relax to experience an unforgettably pleasant vacation that will attract they
and their friends to come again,” Dr Resh said.
The Hydroponic Farm at CuisinArt has also fuelled the food production at the resort’s sister property, The Reef, which opened in November 2016. Just like CuisinArt, The Reef has complete access to the farm and all of its ingredients, fresh produce and a range of nutrient-dense fresh juices. A member of Small Luxury Hotels Of The World, The Reef boasts two restaurants that are delivered
the farm fresh hydroponics daily.
“With tours of the Hydroponic Farm, the guests will realise a sense of security in eating salads made from the on-site farm,” Dr Resh said.
“On the tour guests can experience the methods of growing, they undergo a psychological impact assuring themselves of the quality and safety of the foods. This sets the resort apart from others and brings the guests and their friends back. The payback to the resort is not through savings in food costs, but in obtaining high occupancy rates. The profits are in the sale of rooms and attendance at the restaurants of the resort. This is what we are experiencing here at CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa.”
Read the full story with images and video in Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses. Ω
PH&G August 2017 / Issue 182