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Plenty – Can it Be So?

Touch the Soil News #710 (photo courtesy of Plenty) The information is sketchy, but unusual. Vertical hydroponic farming has been around for a few years and attracted a considerable amount of Wall Street money. There are claims that vertical hydroponics can produce more than 125 times that of field crops in the same space and use only 5 percent of the water. Recently, a new upstart called “Plenty” has garnered the attention of the Wall Street Journal and Fast Company. You can visit Plenty’s website at http://www.plenty.ag/ and read the articles. Different from rows of hydroponic plants with LED lights above them, Plenty uses 20 foot vertical towers with LED…

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Sundrop Farms – Wow!

Touch the Soil News #702 (Photo – Aerial of Sundrop Farms – CC SA 4.0) Sundrop Farms in Australia is a testament to human ingenuity. The farm is a 90-acre facility that includes greenhouses and a concentrated solar power generator to desalinate water (from the ocean) and power the greenhouses. To start with, Sundrop produces tomatoes. Estimates are that the facility has a potential to produce 30 million pounds of tomatoes a year. Initial production is under a contract with supermarket chain – Coles. Coles has 776 supermarkets throughout Australia employing some 100,000 people. You’ve got to see the video below. Sundrop plans to employ about 200 people and all…

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Millions of Dollars for Shipping Container Farming

Touch the Soil News #562 Agricool – a French container farming startup – wants to change global food, one shipping container at a time. The company announced it has raised $4.3 million from French venture capital firms to build out shipping containers into high-tech hydroponic farms. Agricool intends to use the money to build 75 enclosed hydroponic containers designed to grow strawberries. The goal is to install these 75 hydroponic containers around Paris in 2017 and produce about 91 tons of strawberries. Hydroponic farm freight containers from Corner-Stalk Farms. The four containers were purchased from Freight Farms and are located in Boston, Massachusetts (photo courtesy of Freight Farms and Corner…

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Another Interesting Approach to Urban Agriculture

Touch the Soil News #400 Larry and Zhanna Hountz, of Baltimore, Maryland (a city of 600,000) turned one of the rooms in their city rowhouse into a hydroponic micro-green facility. Larry and Zhanna grow some 75 varieties of microgreens all of which are sold to about 10 local restaurants. Called City-Hydro, the growing technique is quite simple. Seeds germinate in food-safe containers on coconut hulks pads, elevated by bamboo sticks above water in the base of the tray. It only takes 10-12 days to grow a microgreen from a seed to the point where it is ready to sell. Using only LED lights and filtered water, the plants require not…

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Vertical Farming – Plant Factories – Controlled Environments

Touch the Soil News #287 While most folks wait for spring to start gardening, a small number of people – often with significant financial backing – are entering the arena of controlled environment farming. Farming inside is not simple. One must buy buildings, retrofit the interiors, use expensive high-tech lighting, labor, get the right environmental management and on and on. Let’s just say a million dollars does not go far if you want to commercialize and produce in volume. What the controlled environment farming entrepreneurs are betting on is increasing demand for: Food that is grown consistently Food that is grown locally Food that can be grown year-round Food that…

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Recycling Freight Containers for Farming

Touch the Soil News #248 Called Freight Farms, the company manufactures what they call the “Leafy Green Machine.” It’s a fully contained farm in a used 40 foot shipping container. The unit comes with its own computerized brain that allows you to monitor and control temperature, moisture, humidity and nutrients flowing to the hydroponic system. And, you do all of this with your smartphone. All yours for about $75,000 per container. The growing lights are a pink hue and there are Bluetooth-connected speakers embedded in the ceiling making it easy to access our favorite playlist. But, don’t let the smallness of the shipping container fool you. In an area of…

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Sundrop Farms’ Greenhouses Boggle the Imagination

Touch the Soil News #210 While the information doesn’t reach mainstream American news, the folks down under (Port Augusta, Australia) are engaged in a big project. Sundrop Farms – a hydroponic greenhouse venture – is in the midst of building a 49.4 acre complex of greenhouses. Sundrop Farms has reached an agreement with Australian supermarket chain “Coles” to supply locally grown, sustainably produced affordable produce. Coles has 750 retail outlets across Australia. Inside a Sundrop Farm tomato greenhouse – the new greenhouses will cover about 2.2 million square feet (photo courtesy of Sundrop Farms) The farming project, called the Port Augusta project, does not utilize the traditional farming cornerstones of…

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Village Farms – The Changing Face of Fresh Produce

Touch the Soil News #170 Village Farms is one of the world’s largest greenhouse fresh-produce operations with some 250 acres of greenhouses under food production – tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and eggplant. CEO Mike DeGiglio in a recent video explains that in the 1980’s only 1 percent of retail tomatoes came from greenhouses. Today roughly 80 percent of retail tomatoes come from greenhouses. Awsome is the reaction to these super-size greenhouses – (photo courtesy of village farms) Village farms boasts that its produce ripens on the vine longer, allowing natural sugars to develop and that they have the shortest times from hand-harvest to grocery store. Recently, Mike DeGiglio was interviewed in…

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Should Hydroponic Enterprises Be Allowed Organic Certification?

National_Organic_Program

The subject of hydroponics receiving organic certification is raging. On April 25, 2015, The Washington Post brought the issue to the mainstream public. While the debate has been going on for years, it has heightened recently. Jeff Moyer, longtime farm director of the Rodale Institute was quoted by the Washington Post as saying: [quote]“Those heads of lettuce that are grown indoors? Yes, they are beautiful. But it’s just a green leaf with water in it. They can’t possibly have the vitamins and minerals that lettuce grown in the soil would have.”[/quote] Moyers words hit the core of the debate – should soil-less forms of food production be allowed organic certification? There…

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