If you want to go all the way and feed the world, there’s no room for pooh-poohing hydroponics. Soil purists step aside; this is an important truth to urban agriculture.
Unlike outdoor farming, greenhouse hydroponic production offers complete control over growing conditions. This means that you can provide plants with exactly what they crave by catering to their temperature, moisture, and nutritional preferences. Since different types of plants prefer slightly different growing conditions, at least one hydroponic farm – Lufa Farms – provides varying micro-climates throughout its massive rooftop greenhouse. Reclaimed water mixed with carefully calibrated nutrients flows throughout the 31,000 square foot (0.7 acre) greenhouse, and then recirculates through the system. Nutrient solution recipes are key in hydroponic production, as plants are grown in soil-less conditions and depend upon the solution for nutrition.
How much food can a hydroponic greenhouse grow? Well, according to Lufa Farms co-founder Kurt D. Lynn, the company’s flagship Montreal farm grows approximately 250,000 pounds of produce per year. The location’s highly-engineered greenhouse allows for year-round production, which helps yields remain through the roof (pun intended). I spoke with Lufa Farms founder and president Mohamed Hage earlier this year, and he explained that the farm “can feed one person continuously with roughly 15 square feet” of greenhouse space. What’s more, is that the farm uses significantly less water and “about half the energy” of a conventional soil-based farm, says Hage.
Thanks to this cutting-edge technology, Lufa Farms feeds approximately 2,000 people every week. Since 2011, the company’s flagship farm has provided over 25 varieties of fresh, delicious produce to a city that imports virtually all of its fruits and vegetables. The approach is simple. Customers buy a 12-week subscription for roof-fresh produce, which is delivered weekly to one of over 50 pick-up locations around the city. Local Quebec farms supplement the larger baskets with additional produce that’s more difficult to grow hydroponically, such as root vegetable, squash, and berries.
Thanks to greenhouse hydroponics, urbanites can benefit from roof-fresh produce year-round, even in cities as cold as Montreal! What are your thoughts on the potential of greenhouse hydroponics?