From blacktop to side salad

Summit + Grand Hyatt Kauai

Text Will Caron

The premium resort on the island of Kauai.

One of the tennis courts at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa on Kauai has been painted white to reflect sunlight. On this court you'll find no guests tossing serves, you'll hear no tennis shoes squeak and you'll see no rackets returning volleys. What you will see are rows and rows of seven different varieties of lettuce growing in a hydroponic garden which the resort now uses in its restaurants.

In February of 2015, the Grand Hyatt opened its 4,000 square-foot hydroponics garden, which cost some $300,000 to convert from a blacktop tennis court. New starts of lettuce are planted rotationally every three weeks to provide a consistent supply.

“All of our restaurants now feature a salad with greens from our garden,” says Diann Hartman, Director of Public Relations for the resort. “The Grand Hyatt decided to create the garden to reduce our dependence on outside growers, reduce costs, and reduce our environmental impact with less shipping necessary for lettuce,”

Hartman says the ultimate goal of the project is to supply the hotel with a variety of lettuces and other vegetables with an expected output of 120 pounds of greens per week.

A model for sustainable food production, this project is the result of collaboration between the resort and the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture. The resort sponsored internships for two Kaua‘i Community College (KCC) students. The internships provided a valuable hands-on learning experience in both construction and the operation of a local, innovative food-producing method.

“They established the system with KCC's Eric Knutzen, built it and got it running, and then trained our staff to maintain it,” says Hartman of the students.

“This was an excellent example of a way to create local jobs and improve food sustainability,” says Knutzen, who is the executive director of KCC’s Ho‘ouluwehi: the Sustainable Living Institute of Kaua‘i.

KCC Chancellor Helen Cox agrees, saying, “We're honored to have been asked to partner on this project that will provide fresh produce for people dining at the Grand Hyatt, and that will directly benefit the local economy by providing sustainable jobs now and for future generations.”

Located along a white sand beach in Poʻipū, on the southern coast of Kaua‘i, the Grand Hyatt is a 50-acre luxury resort with 602 rooms, each with its own lānai (balcony). The resort features lush gardens with manicured lawns, five restaurants and lounges, a water playground with a river pool, waterfalls and a 150-foot water slide, a saltwater lagoon, tennis courts, an award-winning spa, and golf at the adjacent Poipu Bay Resort. But the hotel is also conscious of its environmental footprint, and this project is an example of its movement toward a more sustainable existence.

This parallels the vision of the owner of the resort, Toichi Takenaka of Takenaka Corporation, one of the largest architecture and construction companies in Japan. Takenaka’s philosophy is to “contribute to society by passing on the best works to future generations.” One of Takenaka Corporation’s tenets is to “incorporate greenery into design,” a goal that is evident in the resort's overall design, and which is being furthered through the construction and use of the hydroponics garden.

Says Kaua‘i County Mayor Bernard Carvalho, “Growing food literally right next to where the Hyatt serves its dinners is a great model of sustainable food production and the kind of diversified agriculture that will help us increase our local food production capacity.”

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Summit is Hawaii's global magazine of ideas, style and smart living. We're named for Queen Kapiolani's motto, "kulia i ka nuu," strive for the summit. Summit is available on fine newsstands throughout North America and the Asia-Pacific region.

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Honolulu, Hawaii 96828
Ikaika Hussey
Creative Director
Mae Ariola
Will Caron
Associate Publisher
Michelle Garcia
Copy Editor
Karen Shishido
Assistant Editor
James Charisma