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Reese Hundley: A passionate educator at Symbiotic Aquaponic

Jonathan Reyes

21 days ago

8 min read

We recently did an interview with one of the key players at Symbiotic Aquaponic, Reese Hundley. They are experts at system design and share our passion for impacting communities with aquaponics. Reese has a rich story to tell.

Reese Hundley

What would you say is your "Aquaponic Superpower"?

Taking raw materials and then turning them into a configuration that I can provide to someone and teach them to help themselves and be a steward of life. I find it highly rewarding to give people the power to support life and their communities in an environmentally responsible manner. Our service allows individuals, families, and communities to access the healthiest of foods in a way that promotes healthy lives while connecting people to the earth and their food directly. As a result, people come together to provide for the needs of today while protecting our needs in the future.

Where do you get your inspiration for farming and design?

I am inspired by God our creator who I was created in his image. My interest and need for an intimate connection with the earth as well as a desire to work with the earth to promote life is deeply connected with my purpose and likeness to our heavenly father. I find as I explore and learn more about ecosystems and the beauty of nature I am inspired by how much I don't know and how much I can learn. I also find as I work with or teach others to manage ecosystems that I am growing closer to God and increasingly aware of who he is and who I am meant to be.

Tell us about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

One of the most rewarding partnerships I have had has been with a non-profit called A New Leaf who employs adults with autism and developmental disabilities. A few years ago I was a Summer Camp Director and naturalist for an Outdoor Education program during the school year. At that time I had an aquaponic system I used for educational purposes during the school year. During the summer time as a Summer Camp Director I didn't have much time to maintain the aquaponic system so I asked A New Leaf to help me maintain the system with a small team of clients and a job coach from A New Leaf that were looking to do some work in the community.I trained them and let them take over the operations of the aquaponic system. Turns out it went so well that the clients and job coach were shortly teaching me all sorts of new things I didn't know could be possible with aquaponics. I think part of this is a result of unbiased questioning and clients being much more in tuned with their senses than I usually am. All I did was encourage them to explore and experiment with whatever interested them and we all discovered that aquaponics can be particularly powerful in the hands of people that may see the world a little differently than most folks. Now they go out and help other aquaponic operators in multiple areas of the community as well as host and operate several systems at their own greenhouse facility. In fact some one of the clients we originally worked with has been hired by A New Leaf to help run the aquaponic system on site! They have blown my mind what is possible and continue to teach me (and my whole team) to this day about the power of aquaponics.

Reese Hundley Talking

What is the first thing you do when you arrive at your grow space?

I try to find something new or something that has changed since I saw it last. I am always seeking a new discovery and fortunately with nature it is always changing.

We know you work a lot with STEM education, what are the exciting things happening in STEM with Aquaponics?

The ease of access to information and communication seems to continue to evolve and I find it exciting that young people are increasingly able to access more opportunities to learn and try new things. I always try to teach students that failure is a good thing because it presents an opportunity to problem solve and I think educators are increasingly supporting this philosophy with students. I am fortunate to increasingly work with teachers and administrators where focus is becoming more on teaching students how to think and problem solve through project based learning vs how to pass a test. Students are beginning to be able to meet us in this emerging industry and stand on our shoulders as pioneers to be catalysts of positive change and empowerment in the world.

What would be your ideal aquaponic setup if money wasn’t an option?

We are working toward developing a fully automated and off the grid aquaponic system that I am hopeful can have the capability to thrive anywhere. It seems to me that oftentimes rural and remote areas are in desperate need of healthy and sustainable food sources. It would be pretty cool to then take this concept and use it to establish capabilities for long term comfortable living on Mars if people ever decided they wanted to live there.

Where do you see the future farmers (next generation) and their role in regenerative agriculture and aquaponics?

I see and hope future farmers are able to move away from industrial agriculture and that food production becomes more localized and widespread as there is a resurgence in how many people grow food directly. I hope that farming becomes a practice that everyone may have access to. Where people and communities, both urban and rural, are able to become more connected with their food and processing food, clothing or medicine/cooking together becomes more important in our culture. I believe consumers are becoming more educated and value where and how food is accessed. The best way to control the quality of our food, medicine, or other resources is to grow it. More than ever, people are looking to become more self-sufficient. I also believe people are increasingly recognising the relationship between food and heath and seeing food as a proactive approach to sustaining a healthy lifestyle. I believe we all have a physical, mental, and spiritual need to be connected with nature and food is a natural way to do this. By incorporating technology into sustainable/regenerative agriculture we will be able to provide access to sustainable farming to a greater population of people that wish to participate. Aquaponics and regenerative agriculture practices make it much easier farm with less inputs. Farming is hard work but with aquaponics and regenerative agriculture it can be done much smarter and efficiently as future farmers grow as scientists and engineers while learning from the past. We can also increase accessibility by making growing systems customizable to users and ADA accessible.

What do you do when you are not growing? (outside of work hours) what centers you and brings you joy?

I am a full time father and husband and I enjoy spending time with my family particularly outdoors. I am an outdoorsman and hope as I get older I find ways to live more simply and enjoy the outdoors even more by knowing more and carrying less.

What is next for you and your vision for the future?

I am an educator and don't see that ever changing. I particularly enjoy mentoring and hope to continue mentorship opportunities. I think professionally my career is going to move toward developing programs with partners, consulting, supporting professionals as well as small scale growers and teaching. I really enjoy developing new technologies and improving the way we manage growing systems. I hope to someday consult and help NASA and partners to overcome challenges associated with sustainable food systems to establish long term healthy food options on Mars, the moon, and even deep space travel capabilities. It's my hope that through this process we can transfer lessons learned on earth as well to overcome hunger and environmental issues. I hope that I am able to continue to grow in my knowledge and relationships with others. It seems that doors continue to open and the community that I get to work with to “Grow Good” continues to expand. I see this as a sign that I am right on schedule with God’s plan for me and will keep my eye and ears on him as this adventure continues to unfold!