Not many hydroponic farms are established in the middle of an orchid nursery, but for South Coast Orchids’ owner Dennis Keany and his family, hydroponic vegetables were the answer to the question: what do you grow when you can’t use much water?
The family’s 4.5-acre orchid nursery located just North of San Diego now shares greenhouse real estate with butter lettuce, kale, and bok choy that is sold under the brand name Sundial Farm.
In Southern California, water is a precious, highly regulated resource. According to Sundial Farm manager Sean Keany, state regulations began changing about ten years ago to conserve the area’s aqueduct-fed water source. Water conservation and access to fresh, clean produce are Keany family values and when the state advised going hydroponic, the decades-old orchid farmers were ready to move forward.
After ten years as an electrical engineer in Indiana, Randy Butts knew he wanted to be his own boss. Traditional farming tempted him, but he knew that launching a corn or soybean operation from scratch would be a struggle.
Friends of his were growing tomatoes using hydroponic farming, a process that intrigued him. Plants grown hydroponically use a small fraction of the water, land, and nutrients that conventionally-grown agriculture requires, and they produce abundantly in a shorter amount of time than conventionally grown vegetables. They can also be grown year-round.
We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.”
But David Oberst, founder and president of All Season Greens, gives the familiar saying a different twist.
“You are what you eat eats,” says Oberst, recognizing that what we feed our livestock greatly impacts their nutritional value and, consequently, our health.
“It was my wife’s and my objective to create something that helps change the way nutrition gets into the animal that gets into the human,” says Oberst.
Jeff Hafner and his father Earl run Early Morning Harvest Farm in Panora, Iowa. The father-and-son pair has run the organic farm since 2000 on a piece of land once owned by Earl’s father. In the last decade, the farm has expanded to include not only a cattle herd and traditional row crops, but 200 or so free-range chickens, a flour mill to process grains grown on-site and an aquaponics business that grew out of an evening hobby. The farm is currently breaking even, and that’s only because the need to hire a full-time aquaponics worker cut into the profits.
When the manufacturing company he worked for closed in 2008, John Bolton was prepared for the next stage of his career. Bolton learned the company was planning to close a few years before it happened, so he immediately began exploring alternatives. His research led him to a rapidly growing industry: hydroponic farming.
“I realized that hydroponic farming was quickly expanding in North America,” says Bolton. “So I studied agriculture and the hydroponic methodology, and put together a business plan by the time our manufacturing company closed.”
Bolton started Bolton Farms in Hilton, New York with one primary objective: providing income for his family. He also recognizes that employing sustainable growing methods makes good business sense. “I thought at the time it would be the least wasteful approach and most economical,” says Bolton.
Living Water Farms in Strawn, Illinois is a family affair. Denise Kilgus established the hydroponic farm with her husband Kevin and their daughter and son-in-law, Natalie and Mark Schneider, in April of 2008.
Before the Kilguses founded the farm, the couple had practiced large-scale gardening for over 28 years in central Illinois. When the family started gardening, they grew only enough food for themselves. But as the years went by, they began growing on a larger scale and founded The Stewards of the Land, LLC, a local organization to help promote sustainably grown, local produce in Chicago.
Success has come fast for Beverly and Dave McConnell of Utterback Farms in Middletown, Missouri. Almost overnight, the couple has established an aquaponic farm and are just months away from making a profit.
The McConnells inherited the farm, which was established at the turn of the last century, from Beverly McConnell’s parents. It was Beverly’s avid gardening hobby, inherited from her Depression-era grandmother, which led the couple to enter the world of commercial growing in their retirement.
News Release – Since officially unveiling an 8.8 megawatt Combined Heat and Power (CHP) onsite energy project in August 2012, Houweling’s Tomatoes of Camarillo, CA has increased its onsite power generation capacity to 13.2 megawatts. As of November 1st, Houweling’s will be the first CHP installation to meet the requirements for participation in California Assembly Bill 1613.
AB 1613, began with a 2005 California Energy Commission (CEC) study investigating the CHP market and policy options for increased penetration in California. The result was the 2007 Waste Heat and Carbon Emissions Reduction Act, commonly referred to as AB 1613. This program operates under strict criteria designed to reduce waste energy, meet a minimum efficiency of 60%, and reach NOx emissions of no more than 0.07 pounds per megawatt-hour. Ultimately it provides qualifying projects a favorable Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the state utilities.