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From Poland to Rarotonga

Saturday 1 April 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Features, Go Local


From Poland to Rarotonga
Jakub Postrzygacz is committed to providing Rarotonga with locally grown produce. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS 23033117

It’s a labour of love for Jakub Postrzygacz who supplies Rarotonga with locally grown produce each week.

Postrzygacz sees it as his mission to provide Rarotonga with local grown produce, to make our nation more independent, offering people a healthy product to enhance a healthy lifestyle.

The evidence is in his operation – Oasis Hydroponics – measuring the area of “half a rugby field” in Avarua, it employs eight including his wife, Adrianna Skurosz.

They supply about 10,000 plants, varieties of lettuce and sprouts, to market each week. The produce is sold mainly to shops and restaurants, although he can be seen at the Punanga Nui Market on Saturdays hawking the product.

“I could not justify the effort in terms of economical gains,” he jokes.

The key definition of hydroponics is that there is no soil being used, Postrzygacz says.

Instead, all the nutrients are dissolved in the water and fed directly to the root zone of the plants.  

The operation is centred around a 5000-litre tank.

Water undergoes a four-stage filtration process, including UV treatment, before it’s pH stabilised, mixed with essential nutrients and reticulated throughout the farm. 

Mica rock, a certified organic growing media, is used as the base for the plants to grow.

It has no nutrients on its own, but provides a mix of moisture and fresh air for the roots.

“Many of our greens are not meant to be grown in the tropics, so we need to give them the very best conditions we can.”

Postrzygacz says there’s a misconception that hydroponics rely on chemicals to produce crops.  

“Technically speaking, even dihydrogen oxide, commonly known as water, is a chemical.

“Apart from minerals needed for the plants to grow, we don’t add that boost growth or fight pests.

“It’s quite an intense operation because every week thousands of plants are being seeded and harvested.

“We make the most of every square metre of the land and every drop of water; the process never stops.” 

It’s been a learning curve for Postrzygacz.

“I’m a sociologist by trade.”

He was born and raised in Poland and moved to New Zealand in 2004.

Along with Adrianna, he developed websites then moved into bicycle retailing, co-founding an operation in West Auckland.

During that time he was involved in building bicycles for the New Zealand cycling team.

From there he was offered the challenge of starting the first bicycle shop on Rarotonga.

They moved on to manage Oasis Hydroponics in 2015, a “brand new challenge”, he says.    

“Hydroponics were something I had never done in my life.

“After a one-week crash course in 2015, we were left to run the largest hydroponic farm in the country.”

With three children, a son and two daughters, they adapted.

“We have come a long way, we have learned a lot about hydroponics.”

Postrzygacz draws parallel lines with his Polish ancestry when talking about professional developments.

“The Polish had to be quite flexible, given our interesting history.”

At 42, he remembers the transition from Communism to the free market.

He jokes that “God looked down and said ‘We will put Poland between Germany and Russia’.”

When he left Poland in 2004 the unemployment rate among young people was at 30 per cent.

“Even been employed in the most rudimentary work required high qualifications.

“We were a generation of overly qualified people.”

Adrianna, from Poland, grew up in New Zealand.

Her father was a member of the opposition in Poland and was basically given a choice of being put behind bars or leaving the country.

Postrzygacz witnessed the transition from inside Poland as the free market saw some quickly get rich, while others were forced into poverty.

By the end of the 90s, the rapid development was all but over.

A massive population of highly educated people were on the move, literally millions of people left for Western Europe, he says.

Again, Postrzygacz draws comparisons with the Cook Islands.

“We had some major issues in Poland, we were experiencing a brain drain.”

He sees a similar situation here, “a waste of human capital”.

“We the Cook Islands are not recognising the potential of our young people.

“For whatever reason we are struggling to retain them; the minimum we should be able to offer is a high quality education and supportive environment for young entrepreneurs.”

Postrzygacz says there is no reason why the Cook Islands cannot provide a world class primary and secondary education.

“We have great youth, we know all the building blocks.

“I find young people here more kind, they have a solid spine which is a great basis.

“We are letting them down with the education offered to them. Schools and teachers are doing their best but the system is under-resourced and needs a boost.

“Like in hydroponics, it’s about making the most of what we have.”