Growing rare plants hydroponically

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How forgiving are hydroponic systems for experimenting with rare crops? “Generally they’re just not,” says Tyler Baras with a laugh. Baras, a.k.a. Farmer Tyler, should know – he’s managing a 12,000 sq ft experimental greenhouse and is a master of controlled environment agriculture. But while it’s hard, he says there is a way to do extraordinary crops correctly in hydroponics and vertical farming. And it’s worth it – people are captivated and drawn to unusual plants and flavors. Keep reading this exclusive interview with Tyler to learn:

  • What types of hydroponic systems work best for rare crops
  • What rare plants to grow in your hydroponic systems
  • What plants struggle in hydroponics
  • And after all of that…does growing rare plants even make money? How are you going to do it?

rare crops in hydroponics interview with tyler baras farmer tyler

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Vertical Farming Getting the Documentary Treatment

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Charlotte Duboc’s new documentary America’s Shrinking Farm highlights the importance of vertical farming in eliminating food deserts while also recognizing its limitations. Relevant excerpts from Food Tank below:

Collectively Vertical Farming Doc

The United Nations (U.N.) predicts that global population will exceed 9 billion people by 2050. To feed the growing population food production will have to increase by 70 percent, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). One way to achieve this would be to focus on foods that require less land and fewer resources to produce. In a new Collectively documentary titled America’s Shrinking Farms correspondent and documentary producer Charlet Duboc speaks with food innovators across America about alternative farming methods that may help feed the world. Food Tank sat down with Dory Carr-Harris, the managing editor at Collectively, to talk about the inspiration behind the film and the innovators she met along the way.

Food Tank (FT): Why don’t we start by talking a little bit about what motivated and inspired you to make the film.

Dory Carr-Harris (DCH): At Collectively we’re really trying to reframe the conversation around sustainability through the lens of culture. By showing people how sustainable living and best-in-class sustainable innovation plays into the interest and passions that fill their daily lives, whether that’s food, technology, fashion, travel. Through that, really demonstrate how sustainability should become a part of people’s daily existence, rather than this thing that sits outside of it that people have to participate in as an extra cause or by making sacrifices in their daily lives, etc. With that in mind, we decided that this month we were focusing in on food. We wanted to really explore how people are addressing the question of how we’re going to feed our growing population in the coming years. Obviously farming is the main source of food in the world today, but looking at the system it’s incredibly inefficient in terms of the resources used and we’re not actually feeding large portions of our global population. So we decided to take a look and see what cutting edge innovations are really being developed to address some of those solutions. That was sort of the impetus for the film. We decided to start in the U.S. Obviously this is a global issue, but since the U.S. diet is often criticized highly for being very protein heavy, very meat heavy, very fat heavy, with less emphasis on vegetables and legumes, and also having an incredibly unsustainable system in terms of their impact on the planet. We started there to sort of see what was going on close to home.

FT: Can you explain some of the groundbreaking farming methods that you came across?

DCH: Of course! We explored a bunch, especially looking for stand out ones in terms of the impact they could have and the progress that we have made thus far. Obviously vertical farming, which is quite a trendy topic. Definitely one that has been the source of a lively debate, especially around admissions fee and implementability. But it is really an interesting one because of its ability to take place almost anywhere. There have been a lot of articles and discussions about food desserts especially in the U.S. and I think that vertical farming is a great way to address these because you really can, with a certain amount of capital investment and technology, set up in an abandoned warehouse and create a food source in the center of a city, as opposed to having to cultivate acres and acres of land. And obviously, like we laid out in the film, the amount of land it takes to feed just a hundred people is quite intense. Whereas in vertical farming you can feed at least ten times as many more in a fraction of the space. I know a lot of people have questions about efficiency of the vertical farm. I think that there are certain impacts. They are not zero impact, in terms of the electricity used to power the lights and the energy that’s used to create a water system and pump water around. There is certainly an impact. But if you’re comparing it to the impact that traditional farming has, the balance is off. Vertical farming is more efficient. Right now in terms of where the technology is it only allows us to provide foods to specific areas and certain socioeconomic classes, to be honest. Because usually the types of greens that are being produced are then being sold at a higher price point, like microgreens and baby kale. But I think that, looking to the future, this is definitely a method that should be explored in terms of scaling up.

FT: And hopefully you can eventually get more sustainable energy sources, like wind or solar power, to lower the emission of the farms as well.

DCH: Exactly. And the LED lights that some of the farms are using are between 50 percent to 70 percent efficient, which is a big jump. Some farms that have been written about are still using the sodium powered LED lights, which are less efficient. But I think that what’s important to realize is that we may not have solved it immediately right now, but the infrastructure is starting to develop and the complementary technologies are starting to develop that could really push this type of farming to a completely sustainable model. It’s really now about people picking up the gauntlet and running with it. And pushing that forward.

[Read more here, Food Tank Link]

Simple Secrets To Start A Vertical Farm

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Talking to people just like you, it’s clear that the first step is always the hardest on the road to building a vertical farm. The plunge into the unknown where your own time, capital, and dreams are at risk stops a lot of entrepreneurs from fulfilling their ambition. Fortunately, Matt Farrell took that step for you and tells all in this exclusive interview on the Urban Vertical Project. Keep reading because Matt talks about:

  • Location, location, location (where to put your vertical farm)
  • The honest truth about Zip Grow Towers
  • How much money can you actually make when you start a vertical farm (what restaurants will pay you)
  • The simple secret of getting customers who pay

Simple Secrets To Start A Vertical Farm
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Fresh Water Greens: A Hydroponic Success Story

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With over 100 years of farming experience, when the Villari family decides to take us behind the curtain of their hydroponic business, you know it’s bound to be good.

Their success started with a 16 year old boy’s 75 mile walk in 1910. Sal Villari had just come from Italy with just a few words of English and enough money to buy cattle in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the only place he could market his cattle was in Philadelphia and the only way he could get there was on foot. Since then the Villari farm has grown; from traditional Lancaster pasture land to a quintessential Italian vinyard, the fourth generation of Villaris are now making a splash (ha!) in hydroponics.

In this interview and case study:

  • Regina and Joe Villari take us through their business and answer some of the most common questions the Urban Vertical Project gets about hydroponic farming.
  • I summarize their data and compare it with some of the other operations we’ve looked at in order to give you the most information and context possible to plan your own endeavor.
  • I examine the cost/ sq foot of a ground-level hydroponic greenhouse and compare that with a rooftop vertical farm.
  • We also look at a really effective marketing technique Regina and Joe are using that just might blow the lid off of the organic label.

A Hydroponic Success Story

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Updates and Who I Am

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Thank you.  However you came to be here and whatever you are taking time from to read this, thank you.  I’ve had this website for a few months now and I’m really excited by how many people I’ve met through it and come to talk to.

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