Jasmina Dolce is managing editor of GPN magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847.391.1004.
Catching on to New Gardening Trends
While hydroponics — along with other forms of controlled culture — is somewhat novel within ornamental horticulture, consumers are already catching on to these new styles of gardening and are eager to learn more about recent innovations.
One easy example is aeroponics, which is an interesting way of combining hydroponics with vertical growing. In aeroponics gardening, plant roots hang in the air while solution and nutrients are applied directly to the roots.
Juice Plus, a provider of food-based nutritional supplements, has recently introduced its "tower garden" to the market. The tower garden acts like a fountain: Water is pumped to the top and then percolates through a strainer and drips onto roots. Plants are grown through holes in the tower.
Although aeroponic gardening is quite pricey compared to traditional hydroponics, it offers an alternative for gardeners with limited space for an edible garden.
As new forms of gardening catch steam among consumers, what new forms are you using in your production? If you are limited on space but want to incorporate hydroponics, would you consider implementing a vertical system to your growing space? Shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com, and let me know your thoughts! While hydroponic systems can be relatively expensive, consumer interest is definitely there. And some consumers may even be willing to pay extra for something hydroponically grown.
American Hydroponics recently donated $15,000 worth of hydroponic equipment to Boston College's Lynch School of Education to help facilitate a USDA education grant, which will allow professor Mike Barnett to expand his interdisciplinary program that uses hydroponics to teach science, technology, engineering and math. As the world's population continues to grow, our current system of crop production may not be able to keep up with the demand. And according to Barnett, hydroponics will help further farming and agriculture in the future. "AmHydro is proud to have a partner in education like Mike Barnett," said Scott Kornberg, chief technical officer for American Hydroponics. "There is nothing better than seeing future generations use our equipment to study and experiment."
It may be hard to imagine produce being grown in the middle of the desert, but the University of Arizona in Tucson has been researching growing produce in controlled environments for decades. The university's Controlled Environment Agriculture Center studies the latest technology in hydroponics and also teaches anyone interested in growing their own food. One of its greenhouses is currently home to hundreds of tomato plants grown in hydroponic systems. Dr. Gene Giacomelli, director of the UA CEAC, said, "It could become an example to the country on adding controlled environments to your outside gardens." His goal is to shape Tucson into a locally grown agricultural center of the United States.
An abandoned brewery may not be the most likely space to produce kale, but Urban Organics completed and launched its food-based renewal project in St. Paul, Minnesota, in April, which has turned the old Hamm's Brewery (which closed in 1997) into a source for fresh produce and seafood through aquaponics. The sophisticated system, purchased from Pentair, uses about 75 percent less water needed to grow greens convetionally and can produce about 75 fish a week. However, the plan is to add more tanks to increase production. So far, the greatest benefit: Produce is available to local consumers within 24 hours of harvest! The farm is a test for this new type of urban farming and hopes to serve as a model for other similar projects in the country.