Prototyping materials to my right, glass of wine to my left, and noise cancelling headphones to serenade me into blissful muse. I could get used to this :)
Up until now, I’ve been very quiet about my involvements in the Urban Tech Farm Project. Brian has done an excellent job in spreading our project idea to anyone who may be interested, and the blog has been a huge resource as a result. I think it’s about time that I update you all with my own shenanigans ;)
I’m interested in learning about the general growth of a plant. The more we learn, the higher quality food we’re able to create. Recently, I finished my first growth experiment using recycled water, which you can see in the gallery below. It works by spraying water onto peat pellets, where the plants are located. The water must have nutritional value, so Miracle Gro and a nutrient supplement were used. This isn’t where we want to go in the future by any means, but it has made for a great study tool.
In the beginning, I planted romaine lettuce, thyme, and parsley. Check out the time-lapse! Probably one of the coolest things for me to see is the explosion of growth that the lettuce experienced from day 31 to day 50.
I was only able to successfully grow lettuce plants this time around, but I would still consider the study a success. The goal of this run was not to develop restaurant-quality goods and have you drool all over yourself, but rather, to learn from mistakes and to develop foresight for the future. Over the course of 50 days, I had experienced:
- Mold outbreaks
- Green slime
- Insect enemies and arachnid friends
- pH fluctuations
- Mechano/electric issues
- Plant losses
- Root development
- Plant growth
So, on one side of the argument, one may ask, “How could we eliminate all of these bad things? Pests, molds, plant loss – all of these things are bad.” That would make pesticides a viable option, right? Ah… but the whole endangering human livelihood thing…
I’d like to propose a different perspective for the problem, then. We shouldn’t focus on how to eliminate all of these natural biological occurrences, but rather, focus on how we can we utilize them. I’ve come to learn that biology works through ideal conditions. If a smorgasbord of nutrients is present and underutilized, it won’t be for much longer. A fungal spore, a couple of bacteria, an insect – someone will find it. Have you ever noticed the birds in amusement parks? They’re basically fat babies with wings. Instead of putting all of our time and energy into preventing niche conditions, what if we could take advantage of them?
This learning experience has opened my eyes to some of the areas that needs to be addressed if we want to grow on a larger scale. If we’re able to control certain variables – such as pH or air quality, then we can expect more consistent results. Indoor horticulture is awesome for the simple fact that you don’t have to deal with Mother Nature’s frequent mood swings. No winters, no frosts, no droughts… nothing! Growing produce in a controlled environment is what’s going to allow us to grow at least 10 times more food per year per square foot than traditional farming; organically – without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and synthesized fertilizers.
Though we’ve learned much, there’s still more to discover. Pictures and observations are great, but empirical measurements and controlled experiments are even better. It’s about time that the Urban Tech Farm Project started to get technical.