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
Researchers discover natural product that could lead to new class of commercial herbicide
16.07.2018 | UCLA Samueli School of Engineering
Advance warning system via cell phone app: Avoiding extreme weather damage in agriculture
12.07.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF) e.V.
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
20.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences