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Hydroponic Garden Blends Into Your Kitchen For Year Round Herbs


If you’re not an avid gardener it’s hard to stay on top of keeping indoor plants like herbs and spices watered and cared for. So consider this Urban Cultivator like a personal gardener. It’s designed blend in with your other kitchen appliances, but it keeps a small herb garden alive and well all year long.

Even if you’re constantly buying herbs at the grocery store for cooking, with a price tag that starts at $2,200 it will be a long time before the Urban Cultivator pays for itself. But there’s nothing quite like fresh chives or rosemary straight from the plant to spice up a dish. And while you won’t be growing full-on vegetables in this garden, there’s still a wide variety of other edible plant life that will flourish under its artificial lighting. All you need to do is feed it some organic plant food once a week, and the dishwasher-sized appliance takes care of everything else. Now if only they sold one for taking care of children.

via Gizmodo

TEENS WIN $50,000 WITH HYDROPONICS


Without fertile soil and abundant water, a farmer would seem to be missing the most essential tools of his trade. Hydroponics can help a struggling farmer grow an abundant crop even on a small parcel of land in a desert, on a rooftop, in a starving city — with no need for such luxuries as soil and rain.

Two 14-year-olds from Swaziland recently won Scientific American’s inaugural Science in Action award by coming up with a plan to use hydroponics to provide food for their tiny country which is completely surrounded by South Africa.

“Over 80 percent of the vegetables consumed in Swaziland each year are imported from South Africa,” according to a video the two teenagers, Sakhiwe Shongwe and Bonkhe Mahlalela, created about their project. “Forty percent of the population relies on food aid.”

Besides a $50,000 prize and a year of mentoring from Scientific American, the teens will be flown to Google’s California headquarters in July to compete in the Google Science Fair.

In an experiment comparing their biodegradable hydro system to soil cultivation of crops, Shongwe and Mahlalela found hydro gave them a 32 percent boost in yield, 180 percent faster plant growth and 114 percent greater profit margin.

Hydroponics uses nutrient rich water to feed plants, so good soil is not needed. Hydro systems can also be built so that they reuse that water, which makes them more efficient than irrigation. One of the main problems with using hydroponics to feed the poor is that often the systems rely on expensive pumps, nutrient mixtures, and other materials.

By using sawdust, chicken manure, and cardboard cartons the young Swazis found a way around the cost barrier.

Using hydroponics to meet the needs of the world’s hungry isn’t a new idea, but the knowledge of how to set up a hydro system is not widely distributed. To address that knowledge gap, the Universidad Nacional Agraria – La Molina in Lima, Peru offers outreach and extension programs to bring the benefits of hydro to Peru. The university has an extensive demonstration farm on their campus located a 10 minute bus ride from downtown Lima. The farm showcases everything from fancy high end systems with all the bells and whistles to simple set-ups built from old roofing panels and wooden pallets.

Another organization involved in spreading hydroponic techniques is the Institute for Simplified Hydroponics. They provide educational materials on how to use waste materials to build hydro systems that can provide fresh nourishment, even for impoverished city dwellers with no land. For the urban poor, the cheapest foods available are often high-calorie and low-nutrient. Having a source of healthy, fresh produce can go a long way to reducing malnutrition.

Another significant obstacle to widespread use of hydroponics is a lack of funds to buy seed and build systems. The Hydro for Hunger project receives a portion of the purchase cost of some hydroponic supplies sold by gardening centers like Worm’s Way, a chain of hydroponics and organics shops in the Mid-West and South. The project raised $230,000, according to their website, and donated those funds to the Institute for Simplified Hydroponics.

While I was living in Honduras, a neighbor and I built a hydroponic system using some wood, plastic sheeting and river sand. The biggest benefit my neighbor found to the system was that it allowed him to get seedlings started and grown up for transplanting before the free-range chickens could peck them to pieces. That allowed him to get a large number of healthy tomato seedlings started using less seed. The tomatoes, which he then planted in the soil, gave him a higher value crop than the corn and beans he usually grew in that area.

via Discovery News

Easy Gardening With Homegrown Organic Hydroponics


To many, the idea of organic hydroponics seems like an impossible contradiction. Hydroponics, the growing of plants in a medium other than soil, usually utilizes a chemically derived nutrient solution. Organic gardeners, as a rule, do no like hydroponics: for those who love the soil, the prospect of plunging elbow-deep into a gritty mix of parlite and vermiculite is not very inspiring. Nor is brewing up a batch of Hy-pon-ex or Miracle-gro. However, as an enterprising group of urban gardeners in Montreal has discovered hydroponic food production need not rely upon a chemical nutrient solution … and, under the unique conditions of rooftop farming in the city, soilless vegetable cultivation has distinct advantages.

The Montreal Project

Two years ago, the Canadian government funded an eighteen-month demonstration project in Montreal to investigate the feasibility of rooftop agriculture. The intent of the funding was the development of appropriate agricultural methods and technology so that people would be able to farm the flat wasteland above their city. The target community was the inner-city, ethnically mixed neighborhood, St. Louis Sud. Project workers taught courses in gardening and “roof maintenance” skills, so that community residents could take over the project when funding ran out.

The two gardeners who were hired to teach, research, and supervise were experienced organic gardeners who preferred to work with soil. During the first summer, the rooftop gardens were planted in earth. Over 100 cubic yards of dirt had to be carried by hand up two flights of stairs, each cubic yard weighing between 195 and 270 pounds. The soil then had to be loaded into carefully positioned containers, so that the stress on the roof would be minimized. Even though the roof was strong and could support 80 pounds per square foot, still much of the “wasteland” had to remain uncultivated. If a lighter medium had been used, more rooftop space could have been utilized for food production.

During that first summer, the differences between ground level and rooftop agriculture became apparent. Container soil dried rapidly and had to be watered daily. Nutrients leached out with every rain and the plants had to be side-dressed with a variety of fertilizers at least every three weeks. Since the relative populations of soil micro-organisms and animals are greatly reduced in rooftop containers, their role in soil regeneration in the rooftop project was less significant. Earth worms, though they lived well in the boxes, could not bring minerals back into the earth from the parent rock because there were no parent rocks. By July, the root systems had become pot-bound, filling the entire container. It was found that insect problems occurred more easily on the roots than on the ground it strict care was not maintained. It began to look as if organic container gardening could never be more than a poor cousin to ground level organics.

The project workers, however, came up with a solution, a method which could minimize the many logistical and ecological problems that were being encountered. That method was hydroponics and, given their organic gardening background, the workers decided to experiment with organic hydroponics.

The Organic Hydroponic Procedure

Contrary to prevalent thought, it is extremely simple to mix a batch of organic nutrients adequate for the needs of any plant. One can either use a tea made from high quality compost, or a basic solution of 1 1/2 teaspoons fish emulsion, 1 1/2 teaspoons liquid seaweed, and a teaspoon of bloodmeal to each gallon of water. The mix varies, depending upon the type of plant being grown. Less bloodmeal should be used with flowering and fruiting produce than with leafy crops. Other nutrients can also be added: blended eggshells, for example, might be helpful when added to a cabbage crop. There is room for variation and for more experimentation … the basic mix is meant to be a starting point rather than a proven end product.

The fish emulsion, seaweed, and bloodmeal recipe was developed in trials on lettuce during the Montreal winter. By spring, two successful lettuce crops had been harvested, so the project workers decided to try the nutrient solution with a tomato crop. Two large 5-by-7-foot cold frame boxes were prepared. One was fitted with hydroponic accessories and filled with a growing medium of hall perlite (a lava product) and half vermiculite (made from mica) to which fifty pounds of sand were added. This was found, after much experimentation, to be the best medium. The other box was provided with the normal drainage holes, filled with the conventional soil mix, and fertilized on regular schedule.

For the first month of the summer, the 36 tomato plants being grown hydroponically lagged behind the 36 soil-grown tomatoes. This was because no seedling tomatoes had been started in a soilless mix and it was necessary to take the plants from the soil, wash the earth off their roots, and then set them in the hydroponic box.

By July, the hydroponically grown tomatoes were larger, more sturdy, and had more fruit set than the soil-grown controls. They also had a much greater resistance to the aphids which infested downtown Montreal last summer. This increased resistance is a good indication that the plants were receiving excellent nutrition from the organic mix. Comparisons of the final yields are not yet available, but by mid-August the hydroponic tomato plants were producing about a third more tomatoes than the soil-grown controls. There is no doubt that this simple nutrient solution provides excellent nourishment.

Benefits of Hydroponic Gardening

Critics of hydroponics claim that the method is too expensive and too complex. They also claim that it takes the fun out of gardening and is unaesthetic. The latter claim has some validity. Some community residents in Montreal were put off by the boxes of sterile, almost feathery growing medium. Many stressed that they were gardening for more than the potential vegetable yield, that they enjoyed working with dirt and compost. They wanted to learn about earth and they were quite willing to make do with the Intensified problems of container soil for the chance to work with that medium.

For people concerned with the economics and yields of urban gardening, though, hydroponics makes a great deal of sense. Though soil is cheaper to buy than perlite and vermiculite, the labor costs for the Montreal group in carting 100 cubic yards of earth to the roof were significant. These costs were slashed with the switch to the hydroponic medium which weighed only two percent the weight of dirt. Further, since container soil does leach so readily and does require repeated fertilization, the actual cost of fertilizer for container plants grown in soil is comparable to the cost for hydroponic nutrients. Two more considerations must be mentioned. First, since the hydroponic medium is so much lighter than dirt, a much larger surface area of the roof can be covered with containers without the fear of structural collapse. Also, since hydroponic roots do not need to grow as far In search of nourishment as do the roots of plants grown in soil, planting densities can be more intensive and higher yields can be achieved.

In terms of complexity, hydroponic gardening requires neither sophisticated equipment nor supervision. The technology is simple and easy to construct. The container must be slightly elevated at one end and have drainage holes at the opposite end. One-inch polyvinyl chloride pipes with holes drilled every three inches are laid about an inch under the medium and raised at both ends of the box. Smaller rubber hoses from the nutrient supply are inserted into the pipe at one end and the upward bend in the pipe at the other end stops the flow of the solution. A gravity system for controlling nutrient flow, composed of two five-gallon buckets elevated on boxes and standing two feet above the top of the growing container makes care for the hydroponic vegetables simple. The nutrients can be mixed directly into the water in the buckets and filling the buckets and adding the nutrients takes approximately five minutes of work each day. The hydroponic medium holds water so effectively that rare is further simplified: it is quite possible to skip a feeding for a day or two without causing any damage to the plants.

The experiments conducted in Montreal are important ones: the potential of organic hydroponics for producing both high yields and healthy produce on the rooftops of urban homes and businesses is significant. That the project was conducted in a low-income area and that the community residents have indeed taken over the garden project is also encouraging. Further work remains to be done: we hope to continue researching the methods and techniques of organic hydroponics in our newly completed rooftop greenhouse at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Washington, D.C. And we hope that more community groups try their luck with organic hydroponics … in Montreal, some people grew to love it.

via MotherEarthnews.com

Donation brings hydroponic gardening to women’s shelter


Snap peas picked right off the vine have a crunchy texture and savory flavor that reminds your tongue what good health is supposed to taste like. Few pleasures match the simplicity of eating raw veggies you grew yourself on a sunny day.

That’s what residents of the Women’s Residential & Counseling Center, located just off Magnolia Avenue downtown, will learn to do this year. In one corner of the bright, landscaped courtyard of the facility, which offers housing for women and children escaping from domestic abuse, homelessness and poverty, fresh peas are just one of a multitude of fresh vegetables that will be harvested there due to a donation that could make the WRCC one of the most productive and sustainable emergency shelters around.

Plants and seed pods are embedded in a series of vertical hydroponic planters, made of seven plastic containers stacked one on top of the other. A sprinkler pours water into the highest container, which then drips through a perlite medium (a volcanic glass rock that helps retain water) into the containers below, finally landing in a green water basin that houses a pump. The water contains nutrients for the plants, so they can grow without soil. (It’s a system about which there has been some debate: Can this be considered “organic,” since it does not use bacteria in the soil to convert the nutrients?) Most of the columns house mere sprouts placed here within the last few weeks, but a couple are already growing long vines of tomatoes or squash or even watermelons.

They’re called “vertical aqua gardens,” and they were donated to the shelter by local businesswoman Barrie Freeman and her new venture, Hi-Rise Harvest. The idea is to use these curious structures to educate the facility’s residents, many of whom have little experience with fresh produce, much less gardening, on the value of better diets and modern techniques for growing. The seven units, each of which can produce hundreds of pounds of veggies in a typical season while taking up only a couple of square feet of space, were installed in March.

“This is the growing of the future,” Freeman says. “We are one of the last industrialized countries that doesn’t grow this way.”

The short-term goal is home-grown food. But Freeman says the long-term goal is to give the women who live here confidence and new skills.

“It was so exciting when we heard,” says Muffet Robinson director of communications and community relations for the Coalition for the Homeless, which operates the WRCC. “For us, it’s such a win-win. We get all this good food, and we have a new partner.”

Barrie Freeman is a familiar facein Orlando. She was a major force in the Orlando nightclub scene in the ’90s – she owned fondly remembered spots like Yab Yum Coffeehouse, Kit Kat Club, Harold & Maude’s, Go Lounge and the Globe Restaurant.

Though she had grown up around and spent most of her adult life running restaurants, she says that organic gardening wasn’t something she’d considered in the 1990s. “It wasn’t the same trend that it is now,” she says. “I didn’t go out of my way to source organic food. I probably couldn’t have found any retailers if I did.”

As for growing her own, Freeman says, she found trying to coax food out of the Florida soil frustrating. So about two years ago, she began looking into hydroponics, semi-closed systems in which plants are raised with nutrient-rich water running continuously over their roots. Hydroponics has a number of advantages over traditional gardening: Elevated containers mean no kneeling on the ground, which means less pressure on gardeners’ backs. The gardener controls the amount of moisture and, in the case of indoor units, light. And since hydroponics allow you to grow only what you plant, there are no weeds to contend with and fewer pests.

It’s a not a new idea. It has been in practice in one form or another since the 18th century, but it’s only recently become recognized as a possible replacement for conventional farming, as overcrowding in countries like Japan and South Korea have left growers with little land to farm, forcing innovation in food production.

After taking a couple classes at Urban Sunshine Organic and Hydroponic Gardening, which has stores in Daytona, Altamonte Springs and Orlando, Freeman had an idea. “Once I saw how easy and productive this was, I said, ‘We could do that,’” she says. She and her husband Tommy, a carpenter, started hammering out the details for their own vertical hydroponic prototype. They wanted to improve on the models that already existed, especially their looks. “It’s just as easy to make them pretty as to make them ugly,” she says.

She also wanted to make the growing units better. She says that most of the systems she found would only allow users to grow small plants, like cherry tomatoes or hot peppers. If a hydroponic system was going to make a dent in the average person’s food budget, she says, it would need to support larger, more productive plants.

In March 2011, Freeman began manufacturing gardens of her design, and she placed them on the roof of the restaurant she runs in DeBary, called Genuine Bistro. She also put units on the roof of 100 E. Pine St. downtown, a building owned at the time by her old friend Cameron Kuhn. The result?

“We grew just over three-quarters of a ton of food in one year,” she says. Much of that went to the bistro, but some went to local food harvests and charities. The experiment was such a success that Hi-Rise Harvest plans to sell units in retail stores beginning this summer. The estimated cost of the system is $400, but Freeman says that it has the potential to easily pay for itself.

“To eat right is expensive,” she says. “You watch your produce bill at the grocery store, cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching. There has to be a better way.”

Marty Vevera, director of volunteerservices for the Coalition for the Homeless, was the first to be contacted by Hi-Rise Harvest about the donation. “I was intrigued when Barrie came to my office and explained about hydroponic gardening,” she says. “When she said she wanted to donate a vertical aqua garden to the Coalition, I immediately thought of the residents at the WRCC. I thought the area right outside the kitchen, near the playground, would be the perfect place for the garden.”

Indeed, it’s a pretty place for the garden – Freeman and Robinson inspect the towers under the clear, blue sky and the trickling sounds of the water in the vertical aqua gardens is calming. It’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm they share for this project – though some WRCC residents needed some coaxing to get into it.

“For the majority of these women, this is something they haven’t been exposed to,” says Stacy McKenna, director of the WRCC, so it’s taken some work to get the women interested and invested. Freeman says she did get one resident working on the garden, but she has since found a job and moved on. (Appropriately enough, she’s now building green “Earthships” in the Southwest.) All of the other people involved in the garden since then have been staff, mostly from the kitchen.

Still, no one involved in the project seems discouraged. “We work with clients to get into healthy activities,” Robinson says. “We also work on self-concept. … This is something where they can say, ‘I can see the fruits of my labor.’”

Robinson and Freeman say the center harvested some squash and tomatoes last week to serve with residents’ meals. It’s empowering, it seems, as much to the administrators of the program as it is hoped that it will eventually be for the residents. Freeman, in particular, is eager to see the next big harvest the towers will bring.

“We’re all looking forward to when there’s enough here to put a salad on everyone’s plate,” she says. “There is something so ancient to this. … It’s that sharing of the heart.”

via http://orlandoweekly.com/

Cogenra Solar Completes Solar Cogeneration Installation for General Hydroponics


The 75 kW system installed at Santa Rosa, California facility of General Hydroponics will supplement the power production of its existing PV system and improve its energy savings by producing electric power and hot water from the same installation

The newly installed 75 kW system, 60 kW of thermal energy and 15 kW of electricity incorporates 36 Cogenra photovoltaic thermal (PVT) fixed over a normal solar racking system installed over the rooftop of General Hydroponics. The thermal part of the installation will cut down nearly 3,500 therms of natural gas usage at the facility and the electric power part will offset the solar power presently generated from its existing 101 kW system. Sun Light & Power, a partner company of Cogenra, has completed the solar installation in less than three weeks time.

The Cogenra system has received certification from both IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) and SRCC (Solar Rating and Certification Corporation) to receive both electric and thermal rebates including that of the incentives provided by the California Solar Initiative (CSI) for solar hot water systems. The present rebate of $12.82 per therm of preempted gas in the first year by CSI balances the CSI PV rebates thus allowing quicker paybacks than the normal solar electric or solar hot water facilities.

via hydroponicsnews.blogspot.com/

Vertical Hydroponics – The Great Space Saver


Hydroponics is defined as “the cultivation of plants by placing the roots in liquid nutrient solutions rather than in soil”.

Vertical hydroponics is simply put the vertical distribution of water. It takes up wall space instead of floor space and works much like normal hydroponics. Many people opt for this type of growing system for growing plants indoors, either for food, herbs, flowers or other oramental value.

A pump does the work of distributing water to the plants in your garden and, if done correctly, yields

ust as much as that of a normal hydroponic system. It costs just about the same so, if you have limited space, this is the option for you.

The only difference in this system is that water is pumped up to the plants from a central water system at the bottom. Water reaches the plant and the plant receives all the nutrients it needs from fertilizers you mix with the water.

This specific system also uses light more efficiently. Where you had to add more light with each new hydroponic system, the vertical hydroponic system uses less light distributed more widely. Various systems can use the same light, just be careful that the systems do not overshadow each other.

Some systems are made of stackable pots that are insulated to protect the plants from too extreme temperatures. These systems can be bought ready to use.

If you are not much of a builder, you will find the internet very useful. If you still can’t get your head around the idea, you can always opt to buy a system. Most deals include a step by step instruction DVD while other package deals include all the material you will need.

Plants and vegetables that work perfectly with hydroponic systems:

1. Tomatoes

2. Lettuce

3. Ivy

4. Parsley

5. Basil

6. Flowers

7. Herbs

8. Corn

9. Strawberries

10. Peppers

11. Eggplants

12. Broccoli

At this time, vertical hydropinic farming is not commercially adapted because there are still a few problems such as the effects of gravity. It will affect the plant and how it yields its fruits. Sustainable, organic farming with good soil management techniques is still the optimal way to grow food and plants.
However, these kinds of innovative hydroponic systems are perfect for those of us who do not have a big garden or yard. It is one of the steps you can take in terms of self sustainability. There is no harsh environmental impact and it is something that can be used for a home or even in communities.

Compared to sustainable farming practices, vertical hydroponics is much less energy effcient and frankly an un-natural technical eco-system. It does however provide yields that can be managed relatively easily and a wonderful supplement to traditional growing practices, especially for people living in an apartment or urban area where soil is scarce.

via theinnovationdiaries.com

Hydroponic Lettuce Is The Crop That Doesnt Stop


Bearing in mind that leafy greens and I become somewhat estranged during the protein-, fat- and carb-laden stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, I cleverly scheduled a visit to Endless Summer Harvest for the end of December.

The Purcellville, Va., farm produces picture-perfect hydroponic lettuces and salad greens year-round and sells them to chefs, specialty grocery stores and farmers market customers, even through winter.

Endless Summer Harvest’s cheerful co-owner Mary Ellen Taylor has plenty to be happy about. The economic doom and gloom that shades the news every day seems to have passed her right by.

“We do 4,000 heads a week as bagged blends or living heads, and we sell 4,000 a week,” she said. “The lettuce must go to market, because a germinated seed is waiting to take its place. I can take that to the bank, because I have cash flow all year.”

Pristine heads of living lettuce attached to their roots in a compact 1 1/2-inch cube sell for $5, as do 7-ounce bag blends.

It’s still living

Taylor says her living lettuce tastes fresher than the standard packaged heads because the plants are able to sustain themselves after they are sold.

“There is no deterioration that comes from being cut off from its root source,” she explains. The lettuce is not pre-washed, because there is nothing to wash off – no dirt, no pesticides – and therefore does not undergo the deterioration that exposure to water encourages.

Living heads of lettuce, refrigerated in bags that allow them to breathe but buffer them from the cold air, last for three weeks; bagged blends have a shelf life of two weeks.

Taylor, 50, got involved in hydroponics serendipitously. While she reminisced with an old friend at her 20th high school reunion 13 years ago, their husbands got into a conversation about hydroponic gardening and decided to start a project. The friend’s husband, David Lentz, had the vision and the land in Purcellville; Taylor’s husband, Wallace Reed Jr., had gardening knowledge, as he was and still is a grower at the U.S. Botanic Garden.

The enterprise started as a weekend gig, with Lentz and Reed acquiring equipment from American Hydroponics, a supplier in Arcata, Calif., and a greenhouse from a vendor in Canada.

“About 11 years ago, we noticed clamshells of hydroponic lettuce showing up in grocery stores, and our research indicated that 90 percent of Americans eat lettuce,” said Taylor. Lettuce grows well in cold weather, takes only 30 to 40 days to grow and isn’t prone to pest infestations.

When Taylor was laid off from her job she turned her energy to growing Endless Summer Harvest’s business. “We are either riding the wave of demand for pesticide-free products or we are helping to create it,” Taylor says. “We would not have had this kind of success 10 years ago.”

Computer regulated

Taylor, who bought out Lentz in November 2010, loves to rattle off three-letter designations to explain hydroponics. She uses a nutrient film technique (NFT) to grow her crop and a computer system to maintain a controlled agricultural environment (CAE), and she plans to implement a raft floating technique (RFT) in the new greenhouse.

The NFT, in layman’s terms, is this: Seeds are germinated in petroleum-based cubes, one seed per cube. They then spend 10 days under lamps in an on-site nursery, after which time they are large enough to transfer to the greenhouse. There, the root cubes are settled into long rows of waist-high PVC gutters, and a constant film of recirculating, nutrient-rich water nourishes them for 30 to 40 days, until the plants are large enough to harvest.

(In the RFT, plants grow on floating ponds in an efficient continual rotation.)

A computer regulates everything: the 43 high-pressure sodium lights and heater that maintain summerlike light and temperature; the shade cloths that come down at night or when it’s too sunny outside; the pH, nutrient balance and flow of the water and the water system; and carbon dioxide emitted into the air to boost growth.

via NewsObserver

Vertical Hydroponic Window Farms


Maybe it’s a sign of the times that home gardening is on the decline. Before, people would spend their time in the back yard. Now, they spend their time in their virtual back yard — the Internet.

Britta Riley is merging the two by creating The Windowfarms Project, and she appeared on “Good Morning America” today to talk about her program.

On her website, Riley has a do-it-yourself manual posted that over 10,000 people have downloaded to create their very own individual vertical hydroponic window farms.

You don’t even need soil. All you do need is time, a little patience, some love, and an easy kit which you can either make yourself or buy from the website. And pretty soon you will have your own edible vertical hydroponic garden.

New York City hipsters are using recycled water bottles, clay pellets, plastic tubing, and inexpensive fish tank air pumps to create their indoor gardens.

According to the United Nations estimates, the world’s population is expected to grow by 3 billion people over the next 40 years. With depletion of agricultural land, hydroponics looks to be a path to sustainability — producing more food per acre without depleting the nutrients of our soil.

But don’t think of this as a local phenomenon, people from as far away as Hong Kong, Israel, and Italy have downloaded the instructions. They’re not only downloading, but also sharing video and images of their very own windowfarms on Britta’s site.

Britta was recently featured on NPR, afterwards, there were so many people that visited her web site , that it crashed. Seems like the home gardening movement is starting to grow; vertically.

via ABCnews

TEENS WIN $50,000 WITH HYDROPONICS


Without fertile soil and abundant water, a farmer would seem to be missing the most essential tools of his trade. Hydroponics can help a struggling farmer grow an abundant crop even on a small parcel of land in a desert, on a rooftop, in a starving city — with no need for such luxuries as soil and rain.

Two 14-year-olds from Swaziland recently won Scientific American’s inaugural Science in Action award by coming up with a plan to use hydroponics to provide food for their tiny country which is completely surrounded by South Africa.

“Over 80 percent of the vegetables consumed in Swaziland each year are imported from South Africa,” according to a video the two teenagers, Sakhiwe Shongwe and Bonkhe Mahlalela, created about their project. “Forty percent of the population relies on food aid.”

Besides a $50,000 prize and a year of mentoring from Scientific American, the teens will be flown to Google’s California headquarters in July to compete in the Google Science Fair.

In an experiment comparing their biodegradable hydro system to soil cultivation of crops, Shongwe and Mahlalela found hydro gave them a 32 percent boost in yield, 180 percent faster plant growth and 114 percent greater profit margin.

Hydroponics uses nutrient rich water to feed plants, so good soil is not needed. Hydro systems can also be built so that they reuse that water, which makes them more efficient than irrigation. One of the main problems with using hydroponics to feed the poor is that often the systems rely on expensive pumps, nutrient mixtures, and other materials.

By using sawdust, chicken manure, and cardboard cartons the young Swazis found a way around the cost barrier.

Using hydroponics to meet the needs of the world’s hungry isn’t a new idea, but the knowledge of how to set up a hydro system is not widely distributed. To address that knowledge gap, the Universidad Nacional Agraria – La Molina in Lima, Peru offers outreach and extension programs to bring the benefits of hydro to Peru. The university has an extensive demonstration farm on their campus located a 10 minute bus ride from downtown Lima. The farm showcases everything from fancy high end systems with all the bells and whistles to simple set-ups built from old roofing panels and wooden pallets.

Another organization involved in spreading hydroponic techniques is the Institute for Simplified Hydroponics. They provide educational materials on how to use waste materials to build hydro systems that can provide fresh nourishment, even for impoverished city dwellers with no land. For the urban poor, the cheapest foods available are often high-calorie and low-nutrient. Having a source of healthy, fresh produce can go a long way to reducing malnutrition.

Another significant obstacle to widespread use of hydroponics is a lack of funds to buy seed and build systems. The Hydro for Hunger project receives a portion of the purchase cost of some hydroponic supplies sold by gardening centers like Worm’s Way, a chain of hydroponics and organics shops in the Mid-West and South. The project raised $230,000, according to their website, and donated those funds to the Institute for Simplified Hydroponics.

While I was living in Honduras, a neighbor and I built a hydroponic system using some wood, plastic sheeting and river sand. The biggest benefit my neighbor found to the system was that it allowed him to get seedlings started and grown up for transplanting before the free-range chickens could peck them to pieces. That allowed him to get a large number of healthy tomato seedlings started using less seed. The tomatoes, which he then planted in the soil, gave him a higher value crop than the corn and beans he usually grew in that area.

via discovery.com

US Rep. Marcy Kaptur Talks Urban Farming in Lakewood


U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) stopped by The Root Café on her way to file papers with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Monday.

Kaptur, who will likely run against Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to represent Ohio’s newly-formed 10th District including Lakewood, met with Root co-owner Julie Hutchison to discuss H.R. 3225, Kaptur’s bill aimed at expanding urban agriculture.

“We’ve put so much focus on subsidies for large farms in rural areas that all that’s left for urban areas are food stamps,” said Kaptur, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee and the Agriculture Committee. “This bill is about re-connecting urban children to their food.”

Hutchison said Kaptur offered to put her in touch with Toledo GROWS, the community outreach arm of the Toledo Botanical Garden, for more information about community agriculture, including raising hens, honey and tilapia, and using water from raising the fish to grow hydroponic tomatoes and lettuce.

“She also asked me about the biggest challenge for small-business owners, and I said access to capital,” Hutchison said.

Kaptur also met with Ward 2 Councilman Tom Bullock, who has been a vocal supporter of a controversial year-long pilot program allowing three families to raise no more than six hens in their backyard.

Bullock said next year’s race will pit Kucinich’s idealism against Kaptur’s pragmatism, for better or worse.

“I hope it doesn’t get portrayed that you can only be an idealist or only someone who gets things done,” Bullock said. “You can have that spirit of compromise and getting things done without selling your morals.”

via Lakewood OH