In an area of Texas known by locals as “East of Weird” because of its proximity to progressive Austin, a farm is yielding many bushels of fruit and vegetables on a space no larger than a parking space.
Being a “computer guy from San Antonio,” now-farmer Larry Johnson says he didn’t know anything about plants – he just wanted to do something outside. Rather than look for a bucolic setting with fertile soil, Johnson found a small acreage southwest of Bastrop and began to design a farm much like he would a software program. As a result, his farm can’t be considered a stretch of land — unless one is looking up.
“We manufacture high-density vertical garden systems,” Johnson said of the EZGro Garden company he founded. “The system is designed to grow 700 plants in 15 towers in a footprint of 2 feet wide by 18 feet long.”
“It’s a closed irrigation system with a nutrient-rich water solution that comes in through the top,” Johnson explained. “Water is pumped from the floor level and comes up inside the towers and then cascades back down through the pots, bringing nutrients back to the tank.”
He said it takes 5 gallons of water about a minute to go from the top pot to the bottom — a speed he says assures that nutrients flow equally through each pot.
But Johnson’s admission that he can “make a system, but I don’t know plants” led him to the computer again – this time to search for a vegetable production expert. He found Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Dr. Joe Masabni, a vegetable specialist located in College Station, who agreed to evaluate the EZGro Garden system.
“The research we will do, in addition to proving that the system works, will also aim to show growers that a closed system, whereby the water and fertilizer solution recirculates back to the tank, is safe and does work,” Masabni said. “The common misconception is that if one plant is sick all the rest would get sick, because the disease will move in the water and infect everything else. We want to prove that that doesn’t happen. The stock solution is concentrated enough that it will not allow diseases to grow.”
Masabni said he also will study strawberries grown in a vertical system to determine how dense the plantings can be for maximum yields.
“Because the strawberry is a high-value cash crop and because we have such a rich concentration, we want to know if we can grow even denser than what you would think,” Masabni said. “Instead of putting four plants in a pot, let’s put eight plants, for example, and compare that to production from a pot with only one plant.”
He said that as a researcher he can see that the towers of plants are not showing signs of foliage stress, plant stunting or smaller fruit, but “we need numbers to quantify all lists, because the numbers don’t lie.”
If the research shows the effectiveness of the system, Masabni said, he will be able to provide a guidebook for growers who want to use the closed irrigation system vertical towers.
“The beauty of this system is that a grower can have at least 600 plants in a 2-feet by 18-feet space. If this were in a field situation, that number of plants would have been a 300-foot row in length,” he noted. “So, hopefully we can do the math and show growers that it may be a big initial investment in the system, but that is a one-time event. Think how much could be saved in field preparation, in tractor equipment, in plastic cost, and such.”
Johnson’s company already is selling the vertical towers to growers in several countries and to numerous schools where having a growing system in a classroom is desired, or where space is at a premium or limited.
“This particular system is a non-penetrating system, so it just sits on the ground,” Johnson said. “It could be put on a rooftop, a parking lot, indoors or outdoors — just about anywhere to produce food. There’s pretty much no exception what you can grow in these things.”
He noted that his patented design is produced in Texas with mostly recycled or repurposed materials.
Masabni expects his research to take two years. To view a 30-day time lapse of an Ezgro Garden system, go to https://youtu.be/17bvSfwuscs
Media Relations Manager
Kathleen Phillips | newswise
Energy crop production on conservation lands may not boost greenhouse gases
13.03.2017 | Penn State
How nature creates forest diversity
07.03.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences