South Carolina First-generation Hydroponics Farmer Learns By Doing

Tyger River sells at local farmers' market. Photo by Ryan Oates

Tyger River sells at local farmers’ market.
Photo by Ryan Oates

Sometimes what appears to be a detour ends up being the right road all along.

Ryan Oates owns Tyger River Smart Farm, a hydroponic farm in Duncan, South Carolina. He grows a variety of lettuces, chard, kale, and basil in his 28 x 45-foot greenhouse that he sells to farmers markets, restaurants, and retailers. New to the industry and a first-generation farmer, Oates harvested his first crop in 2013.

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Connecticut Investment Banker Dabbles in Hydroponics to Help Meet Demand for Local Produce

Chestnut Hollow sells hydroponic greens at farmers' market. Photo credit: Harold Blackwell

Chestnut Hollow sells hydroponic greens at farmers’ market.
Photo credit: Harold Blackwell

It is no surprise that Harold Blackwell launched his venture into commercial agriculture with a sound business plan.

An investment banker by day, Blackwell started gardening outside as a hobby, something to do during his off hours to de-stress from the workday. But he could only take that so far in Connecticut, when outdoor gardening pauses during the winter.

To solve this problem, he began with small pots of herbs grown indoors, and then expanded into a small hydroponics set-up. He was pleasantly surprised at the quality of his results, and after a few years had the fortune to meet a commercial hydroponics grower in Bridgeport who showed him the ways of growing hydroponically at a commercial scale for a living. Read more

Priority on Taste Pays Off for South Carolina Hydroponic Tomato Farm

“There are just so many heirloom varieties with tastes that are over the top delicious!” explains Holy City Farm owner Shawn Ransford. (Photos by Shawn Ransford)

“There are just so many heirloom varieties with tastes that are over the top delicious!” explains Holy City Farm owner Shawn Ransford.
(Photo by Shawn Ransford)

There are tomatoes, and then there are hydroponically grown heirloom tomatoes. While the former may be easier to grow, the latter are prized by chefs in Charleston’s finest restaurants.

“Heirloom varieties all grow differently and are finicky at best,” says Holy City Farms owner Shawn Ransford. “I understand why most greenhouse growers focus on the less ‘tasteful’ varieties; they have consistent growth patterns, are disease resistant and have high yields. To be honest, I often dream of doing the same. However, I remind myself that that is not what we do here. Taste is our number one priority.”

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From Four Acres Under Glass to 400, Two Brothers Turn Risky Hydroponic Venture into Sustainable Success

Photo Credit:Wayne St. Denis

Gianni Mucci (left) and Bert Mucci proudly display Mucci Farm’s hydroponic tomatoes.
Photo Credit: John Regnier

Shortly after immigrating to Ontario, Canada from Italy in 1961, brothers Tony and Gino Mucci planted their first vegetable crop on rented land. In 1969, they built a wood frame greenhouse, and in 1975, they put four acres of crops under glass—a risky venture during a time of high-mortgage rates, as well as high fuel and labor costs.

The investment paid off. Today, Mucci Farms continues to make investments in its profitable business, especially in the area of sustainability.

Located near Kingsville, Ontario, Mucci Farms is still family-owned and operated, growing and marketing 400-acres of hydroponic non-GMO produce across North America. Read more

Firm Looks to Build an Aquaponics Culture in the Desert Through STEM Education

Image Credit: RighTrac Inc.

Greenhouse Construction at Brooks Community School
Image Credit: RighTrac Inc.

Beginning an aquaponics education and consulting business in the arid climate that is Arizona is not for everyone. It requires experience in engineering, science, botany and business, not to mention decades of research into aquaculture.

Fortunately, George B. Brooks, Jr., Ph.D. and James T. Hicks, founders of RighTrac Inc., a Phoenix based aquaponic-consulting firm offering a comprehensive sustainability curriculum for all educational levels, have that experience.

RighTrac Inc. offers educational, nonprofit and civic organizations the information necessary to educate people on the future of America’s water use, sustainable farming and food equality through the teaching of aquaculture. RighTrac Inc. is a for-profit company that charges a fee for its services, and is currently involved in a number of aquaponics-based projects around the Phoenix region and in developing curriculum for schools. Read more

Seeds of Tomorrow Project Brings Fresh Produce and Ag Education to Remote Guatemalan Town

Image Credit: Seeds of Tomorrow Project

Image Credit: Seeds of Tomorrow Project

When Casey Houweling traveled to Tactic, Guatemala in the summer of 2012, he saw firsthand the poverty, illiteracy, and hunger faced by the people in a country torn by decades of civil war. Houweling, President and CEO of Houweling’s Tomatoes, made the trip at the behest of his daughter Rebecca, a nursing student who had served there alongside the staff at a school run by Impact Ministries.

Rebecca was convinced that Houweling’s Tomatoes had the resources to help improve life for Tactic’s residents. Houweling had his doubts, however. Read more

Nonprofit Hydroponic Farm in Central NY Thrives; Creates Jobs for those with Barriers to Employment

Image Credit: Finger Lakes Fresh

Image Credit: Finger Lakes Fresh

In 1998, Cornell University launched a hydroponic greenhouse to explore the possibility of using controlled-environment agriculture to grow crops year-round in the state of New York. By 2006, Cornell decided to end its foray into hydroponics and sold the greenhouse to Challenge Workforce Solutions, an Ithaca-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities or other employment barriers find jobs.

Challenge Workforce Solutions has since developed Finger Lakes Fresh, a thriving local agriculture business in Ithaca, New York. The business is centered on hydroponic greenhouse production and a soon-to-be launched food hub. According to General Manager Steven Holzbaur, Finger Lakes Fresh is one of the most productive hydroponic leafy-green producers in the country and has been highly successful in marketing its product. Read more

Water Regulations Prompt SoCal Orchid Farm’s Foray into Hydroponic Vegetable Growing

Source: Sundial Farm

Source: Sundial Farm

Not many hydroponic farms are established in the middle of an orchid nursery, but for South Coast Orchids’ owner Dennis Keany and his family, hydroponic vegetables were the answer to the question: what do you grow when you can’t use much water?

The family’s 4.5-acre orchid nursery located just North of San Diego now shares greenhouse real estate with butter lettuce, kale, and bok choy that is sold under the brand name Sundial Farm.

In Southern California, water is a precious, highly regulated resource. According to Sundial Farm manager Sean Keany, state regulations began changing about ten years ago to conserve the area’s aqueduct-fed water source. Water conservation and access to fresh, clean produce are Keany family values and when the state advised going hydroponic, the decades-old orchid farmers were ready to move forward. Read more

Former Electrical Engineer Strikes Out on His Own, Turns Profit with Sustainable Hydroponic Farming

Source: Eden Farms

Source: Eden Farms

After ten years as an electrical engineer in Indiana, Randy Butts knew he wanted to be his own boss. Traditional farming tempted him, but he knew that launching a corn or soybean operation from scratch would be a struggle.

Friends of his were growing tomatoes using hydroponic farming, a process that intrigued him. Plants grown hydroponically use a small fraction of the water, land, and nutrients that conventionally-grown agriculture requires, and they produce abundantly in a shorter amount of time than conventionally grown vegetables. They can also be grown year-round. Read more

New York Man Rebounds from Manufacturing Layoff, Finds New Career in Hydroponic Farming

Image Credit: Bolton Farms

Image Credit: Bolton Farms

When the manufacturing company he worked for closed in 2008, John Bolton was prepared for the next stage of his career. Bolton learned the company was planning to close a few years before it happened, so he immediately began exploring alternatives. His research led him to a rapidly growing industry: hydroponic farming.

“I realized that hydroponic farming was quickly expanding in North America,” says Bolton. “So I studied agriculture and the hydroponic methodology, and put together a business plan by the time our manufacturing company closed.”

Bolton started Bolton Farms in Hilton, New York with one primary objective: providing income for his family. He also recognizes that employing sustainable growing methods makes good business sense. “I thought at the time it would be the least wasteful approach and most economical,” says Bolton.

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