Jennifer Cole-Connor and Tim Connor
Part-owners of Garden Island Hydro
Please tell us about your business. Jennifer: We’re a horticulture agriculture supply store located in Puhi. We have a variety of products and supplies for gardeners and organic farmers, including hydroponics and aquaponics. We officially opened in June 2011.
Why did you start this business? Jennifer: My husband, Kaioli Acoba, and I have a small garden in Hanapepe, and we found that there weren’t many choices here as far as specialty items are concerned.
Tim: My kids were raised in gardening, and we had an organic farm in California. When I moved here to be with the children I was helping them with their garden, and there really wasn’t a place to go that had the things that I wanted. So I started to do the research and found out there was a need, and I wanted to fulfill it.
What is compost tea? Tim: It is food for the plants and it helps build the soil. It’s made out of kelp, fish emulsion and glacial humus. It’s brewed for 24 hours through oxygen.
What is the difference between hydroponics and aquaponics? Jennifer: In both, the plants are growing in water and a dirt or soil-like medium. Aquaponics uses fish like tilapia; their waste provides nutrients to the plants and the garden. Hydroponics, you still need to purchase the nutrients to help your plant grow.
Tim: They each use 90 percent less water than standard gardening because the water is constantly being recycled. The plants also get about two times the amount of growth, twice as fast. Anyone can do this, even if you only have a lanai to work with.
In a 4-by-8 area, you can feed a family of four.
Why do you think these organic styles of gardening are trending right now? Tim: People are finding out that we import more than 90 percent of our food to this island, and people want to start growing better-tasting organic fruits and vegetables.
What makes you get up and go to work every day?
Jennifer: This is a family business and so there is a sense of pride – just the fact that this is ours, there is a sense that we want it to be successful.
Tim: We also want to provide a service to the island to where we can actually grow better-tasting organic food that doesn’t have to be shipped in and that is environmentally friendly.
Do you also help people get started? Jennifer: In terms of service, absolutely. We’ve helped a few people set up raised-bed gardens, and we have everything for them in terms of soil, compost tea, nutrients and seeds. We help in all aspects for setting up any kind of system. We also are working on getting a whole setup kit for aquaponics.
Tim: We can help walk people through the process.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your business? Tim: I like seeing people being able to enjoy their hobbies of gardening at home and growing their own great-tasting food.
Jennifer: When customers come in and show us their photos of their gardens or aquaponics setup. It’s so exciting to be a part of that and a part of their excitement.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your business? Tim: Shipping and keeping our prices at an affordable cost.
Jennifer: The cost of shipping is definitely going up and plays a huge part in the cost of products.
What sets your business apart from others? Jennifer: We have a very wide, diverse range of products and a large selection. Also, our customer service – whatever anyone needs, we’re willing to go the extra mile.
If you weren’t doing this and you could do anything else, what would it be? Jennifer: I’d be at the beach.
Tim: And I’d be in the water.
1662 Haleukana St., #1, Lihu’e
Open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
246-4769 (GROW) gardenislandhydro.com