Water came into Robert and Sunan White’s Minburi home in the devastating 2011 floods that Thailand experienced. They had relocated prior and fortunately damage was minimal. On their return dismay turned to delight when they discovered their garden in tact, a stark contrast to the surrounding plots that were covered in black, toxic silt. Robert and Sunan’s garden had simply floated and thrived. It was an aquaponic system of their own design and proved to be the confidence boost they needed to continue with their experimental endeavours.
The couple’s 8 year journey from the US Navy (Robert) and the travel industry (Sunan) to aquaponics was not a direct one. Shoestring philanthropy led them to initiate small projects with a few government schools to improve student food and facilities. An idea to plant a traditional soil garden to supplement lunches at one upcountry school wasn’t well received and was too labour intensive for the couple to monitor effectively. They thought there had to be a better, more efficient way to grow food.
Robert and Sunan briefly explored hydroponics but ultimately bypassed it due to the chemical solutions involved. Aquaponics was where they ended up as it’s efficient and a relatively closed system – except for the air above the plants. Fish (often tilapia) are kept in food-grade tanks and their waste delivers nutrients to the plants. The plants in turn filter the water for the fish.
The couple founded Aquaponics Thailand and are entirely self taught.