Greener Roots Farm: Controlled Environment Agriculture | Volunteer Gardener


¶- So before we go in, we
¶gotta get some hand sanitizer. Clean our hands. ¶Really important to
¶clean our feet too, ¶¶’cause they don’t
¶¶want them bringing ¶any external parasites
¶or anything like that. ¶So this hydroponic
garden clearly makes ¶a really great use of space
¶as far as packing density ¶and what you can grow
¶in this small space. ¶How many different
¶varieties of lettuce ¶are you growing here? ¶- Currently, we have
¶13 different types of lettuce that we grow, and that’s all
harvested twice a week. And then packed here,
put in a walk-in cooler, ¶¶and then put in
¶¶our delivery truck that we drive around
Nashville twice a week. – Awesome, yeah, I’m
here with Jeffrey Orkin, ¶he’s with Greener Roots Farm. ¶¶This is one of his
¶¶newest projects. ¶I think his second location. ¶¶- Correct. – We’re here at Southall Farms. ¶¶Yeah, this is a beautiful
¶¶greenhouse that we’re in. ¶And so you kind of corrected
¶me a little earlier ¶and said this was
¶kind of hydroponic, ¶so explain to me
¶about your process. ¶- [Jeffrey] Yeah, so
¶both of our locations, ¶we exclusively grow
¶hydroponically, so that means that
there’s no soil involved ¶at any step of the process. ¶So and this specific
¶type of hydroponics ¶is called raft hydroponics. ¶¶So what that means is
¶¶these are styrofoam rafts that are floating on the water. ¶¶And so you can see
¶¶there’s no soil anywhere. ¶The roots are coming
¶out of the bottom, ¶and they’re floating
¶in a nutrient solution ¶¶and the plants take up the
¶¶nutrients that they need. And what they don’t need is
just recirculated in the system. ¶So for that reason,
¶hydroponics is often touted ¶as a really efficient
¶use of water. ¶- [Phillipe] Right. – [Jeffrey] We actually
use about 90% less water ¶than conventional agriculture
¶because of the fact ¶that it’s being recirculated. ¶- [Phillipe] Right. ¶- [Jeffrey] The plants
¶use what they need. ¶There’s very little
¶evaporation in this system, so mostly transpiration occurs. – [Phillipe] Right,
yeah, there’s not a lot of exposed water
to the sunlight. ¶- [Jeffrey] Correct,
¶yeah, exactly. ¶- [Phillipe] Which
¶helps a lot with it. ¶- Yeah, there’s 10
¶rows of rafts here. ¶And this entire mix goes into our most popular
Nashville blend, ¶¶which has all 10 of these
¶¶lettuces, that’s like a– ¶- Wow.
¶- Just to your point, ¶it’s a really pretty
¶mix of lettuces. ¶- Yeah, very colorful. – Yeah. ¶- So how long has this been
¶growing in this solution? What’s your time frame? ¶- Yeah, so from seed
¶to harvest on most ¶of these varieties is
¶about 40 to 50 days. However, the first two
weeks of its life is not ¶in this big finishing pond.
¶- Okay. ¶¶- [Jeffrey] So we
¶¶start the lettuce in these 10 by 20 trays
in our vertical farm, ¶and then they’re grown
¶there for two weeks. And then they come here
and were transplanted into the higher density
spacing that you see ¶at the other end of the pond. ¶¶- [Phillipe] Yeah. ¶¶- [Jeffrey] And then this
¶¶is our finished spacing, ¶so we’ve got 18 heads
¶in a two by four raft. ¶- [Phillipe] Wow, talk
¶about square foot gardening. ¶¶- [Jeffrey] Yeah, exactly,
¶¶yeah, and we’re pulling ¶¶almost 2,000 heads a week.
¶¶- Wow. ¶¶- And just over
¶¶800 pounds a week. ¶So between the two facilities, ¶¶last year we did
¶¶14 tons of produce ¶from the previous facility. And with this facility
and the other facility, ¶we’ll probably do over 30 tons ¶of lettuce in a year.
¶- Wow. ¶¶- So it’s a very
¶¶efficient process. – Yeah.
– Yeah. – I do have to ask you, ¶having grown lettuce myself
¶at home in the ground, ¶how do you keep
¶these from bolting? ¶¶- So a lot of that is just climate control.
– Okay. ¶¶- Controlling the
¶¶water temperature. ¶- Okay.
¶- We have artificial ¶¶lighting in here, we have
¶¶a sensor that you can see that’s hanging out just
at the plant canopy. So the whole greenhouse
is controlled ¶by a fancy computer system.
¶- Gotcha. – [Jeffrey] And we say, ¶”Hey, we want this
¶much light everyday.” ¶And if we’re not
¶getting enough light, ¶the lights come on.
¶- Right. ¶¶- [Jeffrey] And
¶¶that’s a great way ¶if it’s hotter temperatures, ¶we can dial back
¶the amount of light ¶¶that we want the crop to
¶¶get and that’ll slow down ¶the growth rate and–
¶- Right. ¶- [Jeffrey] Decrease
¶the chance of bolting. ¶¶- [Phillipe] So what’s the
¶¶causes of bolting I guess? ¶- [Jeffrey] I mean,
¶normally it’s stress, ¶so it’s the plant trying
¶to produce seeds so that it ¶¶can survive as a species.
¶¶- Okay. ¶¶- [Jeffrey] And so if you
¶¶can reduce stress factors, ¶oftentimes for
¶lettuce in the soil, ¶¶that has to do with heat.
¶¶- Right. – [Jeffrey] It could have to do ¶¶with nutrient deficiencies
¶¶and other things. ¶So again this is controlled
¶environment agriculture, ¶oftentimes called CEA, ¶and that’s the whole
¶shtick with CEA, ¶is that you’re manipulating
¶all the factors in order to produce the best product year-round.
– Right, it shows. ¶- [Jeffrey] Yeah, I
¶mean it’s 100 degrees ¶¶outside right now, and we’ve got beautiful
lettuce growing so. – Right, right.
– Yeah. – [Phillipe] So this is
kind of how they start? ¶¶- [Jeffrey] Yeah, correct,
¶¶so we start the seeds ¶in something called rockwool, ¶which is like cotton
¶candy of rock. ¶Spun rock that’s heated up and
¶then shaped into this shape. ¶- Methodical process,
¶yeah, I mean it is. – Very uniform process as well. – [Phillipe] So you have a
really advanced computer system ¶¶that controls the lighting
¶¶and the temperature. Is that the same for
the water and the ponds? ¶- That system
¶doesn’t control that, ¶but we do have this Bluelab
¶system that monitors ¶¶water temperature, pH, and
¶¶the nutrient salt levels. ¶It’s called electrical
¶conductivity. – Okay.
– And so it’s literally ¶just measuring a salt level, ¶and we know ranges
¶that are appropriate. ¶And then in addition to that, ¶¶we do monthly water tests. ¶So we’ll send them to a lab, ¶¶and that will give
¶¶us a full panel ¶of all the micro
¶and macronutrients. ¶- Wow.
¶- That’s another one ¶¶of the really cool aspects
¶¶of hydroponic farming, is we’re able to do
that on a regular basis. ¶And that means that literally
¶every month we can say, “Hey, we need more calcium,” or, ¶¶”We need more potassium,”
¶¶or “more nitrogen”. ¶And we have the ability to
¶adjust for specific nutrients ¶¶instead of just some kind
¶¶of a blanket treatment. – Right.
– Yeah. ¶¶- What is the main source
¶¶of fertilizer for these ¶¶that you put in the water? ¶- We use a more conventional
¶bagged fertilizer. ¶They’re all designed
¶for hydroponics. ¶¶- Okay.
¶¶- However, a very common, ¶if we need magnesium, ¶¶we use magnesium sulfate, ¶¶also known as Epsom salt.
¶¶- Sure, yeah. ¶- It’s not like we’re pouring ¶crazy stuff in here.
¶- Right. ¶- But they’re designed
¶for hydroponics, ¶and they come in a
¶powder form in a bag, and then we mix them with water. ¶- Yeah.
¶- So we have ¶¶kind of a custom solution
¶¶that we’ve perfected over the past five years
of being in business. ¶- Cool, yeah.
¶- Yeah. ¶¶- One of my favorite
¶¶questions to ask gardeners ¶is I see the yellow
¶pads out there. ¶¶Obviously to catch
¶¶flies and whatnot. ¶- Yeah.
¶- What are some major issues ¶that you’ve run into that
¶you found good solutions for? – [Jeffrey] Yeah, we use
sticky traps primarily ¶¶for insect identification.
¶¶- Okay. ¶- [Jeffrey] However,
¶thrips are one ¶of the largest issues
¶in a lettuce farm. – Right.
– And they love ¶yellow sticky traps.
¶(Phillipe laughing) ¶¶We don’t spray any
¶¶pesticides or herbicides, ¶and so we have to do
¶other control methods, ¶and that’s one of our go-tos. ¶We do also introduce
¶beneficial insects. ¶- Oh, cool.
¶- And so there are, ¶¶for example, if we do see
¶¶aphid populations that are outside of our comfort zone, ¶or thrip populations that are
¶outside of our comfort zone, ¶¶we can introduce either a
¶¶parasitic wasp or a mite that will then go after ¶the problem insect.
¶- Oh, wow. ¶¶- And it’s really
¶¶quite fascinating. ¶¶- Yeah.
¶¶- They’re so small that you can’t see them at all, ¶but you’ll just notice
¶the insect populations
¶dropping down. ¶So yeah.
¶- That’s very cool. – Very cool.
– Yeah, so still staying ¶¶in the natural processes?
¶¶- Yeah, exactly. ¶- But in a controlled
¶environment at the same time. – For sure.
– So it’s really understanding how nature works. ¶- Yeah.
¶- To be able to control it. ¶¶So we’re here at
¶¶these fish ponds, ¶is that what you call them? ¶- [Jeffrey] It’s our
¶aquaculture system. – Okay.
– Yeah. ¶¶- Aquaculture system, and
¶¶what do you use this for? ¶- So we are growing
¶hybrid Striped Bass ¶¶for the purpose of selling
¶¶the fish for consumption. – Oh, wow, okay. ¶- So this system is not being
¶used to create fertilizer, ¶this is not an
¶aquaponics greenhouse. ¶It’s a hydroponic greenhouse
¶that also raises fish. ¶We’ve spent nearly six years
¶perfecting hydroponics, ¶and this is our first
¶time growing fish. ¶And so we didn’t want
¶to complicate trying ¶to connect those two things. ¶This is two different
¶living systems and– ¶¶- Yeah.
¶¶- Connecting them together ¶is a little bit difficult so. ¶- So do we get to feed them? ¶- Yeah, absolutely.
¶- Okay. (food splashing) ¶¶- They’re hungry.
¶¶- Yeah, oh yeah. ¶(Phillipe laughing) ¶- This is really cool, so
¶you get these in as I guess ¶as little baby fish?
¶- Yeah. ¶They come in as fingerlings
¶when we got them in January. ¶They were like a
¶10 to 12 gram fish. And we’ve actually been working ¶¶through getting the
¶¶system working correctly, but they’re already up
to about 55 or 60 grams. ¶¶- Wow.
¶¶- And we’re gonna ¶harvest them to almost
¶a two pound fish. ¶¶- [Phillipe] What are some
¶¶of the other fun things that you would say about
hydroponic gardening? ¶- [Jeffrey] It’s a
¶really rewarding way ¶to see things grow quickly. ¶- Yeah.
¶- Especially if you ¶have your nutrient
¶recipe dialed down. I know for a lot of people that
want to get into gardening, ¶and you’re in the back yard, ¶¶and things aren’t
¶¶working out well ¶¶because you don’t
¶¶have enough sun, ¶or you didn’t
¶actually pay attention ¶to your soil quality.
¶- Right. ¶- This is a much easier way ¶to have a successful
¶first go around. ¶Now granted, there’s
¶plenty of errors ¶that can happen along the way. But it is nice coming
in on a 100 degree day, ¶and seeing several thousand
¶heads of ready-to-eat lettuce ¶that are just perfect
¶in the summer. ¶- Yeah.
¶- I didn’t go ¶to school for this. ¶¶I’m a landscape architect ¶as you know.
¶- Yeah. ¶¶- [Jeffrey] So a lot of my
¶¶knowledge was just gained ¶from watching YouTube videos, ¶trying things, experimenting. ¶¶Another very first
¶¶Volunteer Gardener in 2013 ¶was in my little
¶experimental lab so. ¶¶- [Phillipe] Yeah,
¶¶it was in a closet ¶space that you had.
¶- Yeah. ¶- [Phillipe] Packed
¶full of stuff. ¶¶- [Jeffrey] At the top
¶¶of a building in downtown ¶is where we started in 2013. So it’s come a long way.
– Yeah. ¶So lots of trial and error. ¶¶- [Jeffrey] Exactly, yes. ¶- To get here.
¶- Absolutely, yeah. ¶¶- [Phillipe] Thank
¶¶you for doing this and showing us the farm.
– Absolutely. ¶¶- It’s beautiful.
¶¶- Thanks. ¶- [Phillipe] It’s comfortable, and it looks enjoyable.
– Yeah. ¶¶Come back anytime.
¶¶- Yeah, ¶¶thank you so much.
¶¶- Yeah. ¶(upbeat music) – [Narrator] For inspiring
garden tours, growing tips, and garden projects,
visit our website at volunteergardener.org,
or on YouTube at the Volunteer
Gardener channel, and
like us on Facebook.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *