the full monty

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.

Lufa Farms Growing Team || photo by and courtesy of Lufa Farms

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?

3 Comments on “the full monty

  1. I would guess that indoor farms have their share of issues that are separate but equal to those of outdoor farms.

    For example, how do indoor farms pollinate plants? If they allow insects and/or birds, and prohibit other insects and animals that prey on these pollinators, how do they prevent the pollinating insects from becoming excessive? Do they have special doors that only allow bees to pass? (which might be possible with pheromone-scented doors or high-tech bee-detecting devices).

    In water that is reclaimed multiple times (reclaimed, then reclaimed again, etc), how are waste products controlled in a clean environment lacking waste-consuming bacteria?

  2. Fascinating. We had belonged to a local growers co-op at one point. It ended up being too many for us to eat in a week at the time. But a great idea these guys have put into practice anyways! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the message, Gregg. Believe it or not, many rooftop greenhouses actually keep bees inside to pollinate the crops. I’m not sure how the farmers keep the bees from becoming excessive, but I have not yet heard of this being a problem.

    The recirculating water found in most of these high-tech systems passes through filters every time it circulates. UV and other types of filters take care of any contaminants that may be in the water. Great questions.

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