PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 23, 2013

Man spreads word about hydroponics

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Abe Paninski may be illiterate, but that’s okay. He likes to work with his hands.

“I love building things,” he said. “I’m good with my hands.”

A fabricator by trade, Paninski, 49, quit his job up north once the plant made plans to move and he saw “the writing on the wall,” he said. That was when he cashed in his 401(K), moved to Port Arthur and started to search for employment.

Unsurprisingly, Paninski did not find employment. But he did find his desire to start a small business, which was why he attended the Master Gardeners Annual Spring Market Sale Day and Plant sale Saturday morning at the Jack Brooks Regional Airport. He was talking to folks and handing out leaflets on his hydroponics business, ABC Hydro.

“To me, it’s fascinating. Running my own business is exciting for me,” Paninski said. “I always worked for a corporation. I was always the small guy. Now I feel like I’m really doing something now.”

With the aid of Conrad Cooper at the Lamar State College-Port Arthur’s Small Business Development Center, Paninski has been trying to get the word out about his business and knew Saturday’s event would be an opportunity to spread the word.

Hydroponics is a method of cultivating plants by placing their root systems in liquid nutrients rather than soil – and it’s not just for growing marijuana, Paninski said.

“Hydroponics is the way of the future,” said Cecil Hightower of the Master Garderners. “After we’re dead and gone, that may be the way they grow.”

Not many people know about hydroponics in the area, Paninski said. It has been stigmatized due to its use in the medical marijuana industry. But the practice has been around for millennia – take the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, for instance.

Scientists at the Kennedy Space Center’s Space Life Science Laboratory have been looking at various methods and nutrient solutions to use to grow food hydroponically in space, according to an article on NASA.gov. The laboratory has been growing onions, lettuce and radishes in hydroponic plant growth chambers that may change the way we grow and consume our food in the future – ways that would allow space travelers to cultivate their own food.

Because with hydroponics, gardeners are not dependent on the cycle of the seasons or the temperaments of their terrains, Paninski said. You can grow year-round and twice as fast, and the water or liquid nutrient solution used is a closed system that recycles itself, saving gardeners the costs of constantly watering their plants during dry seasons.

Plants do not actually need soil in which to thrive, according to Hydroponics.com. They just need the nutrients in the soil to survive.

One nonprofit organization, Hydro for Hunger, has been raising money and awareness of this progressive gardening method to help end world hunger.

But Paninski is not trying to end world hunger. He is just trying to prove something to himself.

“I can do this,” he said. “I’m illiterate, and it’s something to prove to myself that I can do.”

email: bcrum@panews.com

twitter: @broocrum