Presenting subjects ranging from window farming to food security and lighting systems, the Indoor Agriculture Conference features two full days of education on controlled environment technologies, aero/hydro/aquaponic best practices and business models, automated nutrient systems, future trends, and financing options …
As a hydroponic grower, fishing guide, aquaponics teacher, wetland restoration expert and breeder of native bait, Barry Thoele is a man of all sustainable trades.
“The industrial model that we have right now, I understand it, I don’t like it and I don’t condone it,” says Thoele. “If I’m going to speak out against it, I need to offer something else.”
By combining a penchant for invention with a self-taught approach, Thoele has worked through trial-and-error to determine what works best for his land.
One thing most people can agree on: pale supermarket tomatoes do not taste like the tomatoes grown in the backyard in summer. That’s why Backyard Farms strives to produce fruit so delicious that it tastes like it was just plucked from the backyard garden—even during a long Maine winter.
According to Tim Cunnis, Executive Director of Sales and Marketing at Backyard Farms, the company formed in 2006 to provide a more local alternative to mediocre tomatoes trucked in from thousands of miles away.
When room to farm in a city is scarce, look up.
Montreal-based Lufa Farms built Canada’s first commercial hydroponic urban rooftop greenhouse in 2011. In the late summer of 2013, Lufa opened a second, larger rooftop greenhouse in Laval, Quebec.
Although Lufa always intended to add another greenhouse to its operation once the 2011 site opened, the company wanted to observe how the first project did first, says Lauren Rathmell, greenhouse director and founding member.
“The goal was to have by the end of our first year of production 1,000 subscribers, which is about what our first site can support by itself,” she says. “The trajectory from there was to have a goal of having 3,500 subscribers by the end of 2013.”
On the verge of opening their new Quebec store, Canadian startup Urban Barns looks set to be a leader in the sustainable grocery store industry, both in Canada and the United States.
After careful planning and four years of intense research and development, Urban Barns launched in 2012 with a goal of growing produce as close to customers as possible. Initially, Urban Barns wants to sell sustainable leafy greens to the wholesale market. They believe their patented growing cubes are the perfect way to do that.
Getting through the first season as a new farmer can be daunting, but Perpetual Harvest owner Frazer Love faced the challenge with a commitment to organic growing.
As Love explains: “When we contribute positively to our community, our community sustains us as a naturally created cycle.”
Love took a chance when he left his job in October 2012 to become a micro farmer. A micro farm, according to Love, is an urban plot of land no bigger than 4 acres dedicated to producing fruits, vegetables, and, at times, poultry.
To start his farm, Love built twelve 16-square-foot raised beds on his home property in Athens, GA, and installed a custom irrigation system featuring a feeding barrel for compost tea and ball valves on each bed to control water flow.
After years of research and design, tracking delivery routes, studying the local market and looking for a way to improve on agricultural standards, Oceanside, CA startup Famgro Farms developed an ultra-efficient, stackable “macro farm” system that optimizes space for hydroponic growing.
“I leverage technology, material handling and hydroponics together in a way that has not been done before, to make a meaningful impact on the ability to produce food, anywhere, anytime, pesticide-free and for a lower cost,” says Steve Fambro, who founded Famgro Farms in 2010.
Sometimes what appears to be a detour ends up being the right road all along.
Ryan Oates owns Tyger River Smart Farm, a hydroponic farm in Duncan, South Carolina. He grows a variety of lettuces, chard, kale, and basil in his 28 x 45-foot greenhouse that he sells to farmers markets, restaurants, and retailers. New to the industry and a first-generation farmer, Oates harvested his first crop in 2013.