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Lush Leaf Farm yields gourmet hydroponic lettuce

( 22-05-2015 - 03:19 PM ) - Lượt xem: 847

GREENFIELD, Ind. — The 3,000-square-foot greenhouse in Hancock County looks like any other greenhouse. The produce growing inside is what sets it apart. Tony Barnett uses the space to hydroponically grow lettuce. He runs the greenhouse with his friend, Cory Newton, and his wife, Meredith Rogers. Although he has only been growing the lettuce at the Greenfield location for one year, he has been using a hydroponic system for seven years.

GREENFIELD, Ind. — The 3,000-square-foot greenhouse in Hancock County looks like any other greenhouse. The produce growing inside is what sets it apart.

Tony Barnett uses the space to hydroponically grow lettuce. He runs the greenhouse with his friend, Cory Newton, and his wife, Meredith Rogers. Although he has only been growing the lettuce at the Greenfield location for one year, he has been using a hydroponic system for seven years.

“We think that it might be a viable crop source or a good alternative specialty crop for the state of Indiana,” Barnett said. “We’ve been able to grow the lettuce consistently year-round for several years.”

 

Although there are different ways to grow hydroponic lettuce, Barnett uses a floating raft system. Seedlings are inserted into holes in a Styrofoam raft and the roots from the plant grow into the nutrient solution as the raft floats on top of it.
 
Although there are different ways to grow hydroponic lettuce, Barnett uses a floating raft system. Seedlings are inserted into holes in a Styrofoam raft and the roots from the plant grow into the nutrient solution as the raft floats on top of it.

 

The controlled environment ensures maximum freshness and nutrition, and because the greenhouse is covered, pesticides, chemicals and sprays are not used.

Barnett grows six kinds of lettuce, including romaine, red butterhead, green bibb, red oak leaf and green oak leaf. He harvests 1,000 heads of lettuce each week.

How It Works

Barnett grows the lettuce using a deep-water culture hydroponic system. He has two beds in his greenhouse that have 10 inches of water with Styrofoam trays of lettuce floating on top.

Overflow drains on the sides of the beds are used to filter out water to venturi valves that mix oxygen and nutrient solution in the water that comes in and feeds the plants.

“The system gives us flexibility,” Barnett said. “It gives us the ability to keep plants cooler in hot months and keep water warmer in cold months, which is important in our state.”

Seedlings are inserted into holes in the floating trays and placed into water. After two weeks he slides the trays down where there are bigger lettuce plants for two more weeks before Barnett harvests them. The whole process from planting, transplanting and harvesting takes about six weeks.

When the lettuce is harvested it is taken to Fountain Square’s Wildwood Market and the Indianapolis Zoo, as well as restaurants such as Napolese, Plow and Anchor, R Bistro and The Mug. It also is in Hancock County schools through the Indiana Farm to School program.

Aids Local Food Movement

Barnett didn’t grow up on a farm, but he grew up around agriculture. Originally from Centerville, his family had an organic garden when he was growing up, and he previously had experience with farmers markets and the organic food service industry.

The local food trend is growing in popularity, and because of this Barnett saw a need in the food service industry.

“Consumers aren’t really having a problem getting local food,” he said. “Chefs and people in the food industry are the ones having issues finding a constant supply year-round. That’s how we fell in to it.”

Barnett hopes that growing produce hydroponically can help solve a larger problem.

“In my mind, there is no reason we can’t source a lot of our food in Indiana,” he said. “A lot of produce available in stores is from other states, and the main thing we want is to show that more can be grown in the state.”

The Next Step

In the future, he plans to add another bed in the greenhouse that would allow him to grow at least 1,500 heads of lettuce each week. He also plans to grow different kinds of food hydroponically, including strawberries.

Advice Barnett has to others is to experiment with a system and see what works. He warns that people starting out with a hydroponic system should expect it to take twice as long as long and possibly cost twice as much.

“I do think it’s something people should look in to,” he said. “Farming is not something I thought I would ever end up doing, but I love that every day is different.”