Updated: Jan 4, 2018
Does indoor hydroponics make sense?
Great question - one worth asking. We grow hydroponically, where plants grow in water instead of soil, and indoors, so they never see the sun. And after thousands of years of successful farming in the sun and soil, our way sounds kind of crazy. Why try something different? Does this make sense? Here’s what we think – the pros and the cons:
More produce per square foot
On a square foot basis, we grow more greens than conventional outdoor farms. Other hydroponic farms make grand claims about their productivity - “We grow an acre’s worth of vegetables in 8 square inches!” We don’t make claims about exactly how much more efficient we are than outdoor farms, but one study suggests that farms like ours grow 10-20 times more produce per square foot.
Lower water use
Again, we see a range of numbers here. Some claim hydroponics uses 90% less water than conventional farming. Others say 95%. Because our systems use water that recirculates rather than drains away, we use much less water than conventional farms. This is especially beneficial given that much of Minnesota’s leafy greens would otherwise be grown in the Southwest United States, where there are major water shortages.
We grow closer to you, the consumer
Many of the greens at the grocery store are grown in California and Arizona, more than 1500 miles away from Minneapolis. We grow in Little Canada; our produce travels less than 20 miles to reach you. This means two things: 1) our produce is typically in your fridge within a day of harvest, meaning it tastes better, lasts longer, and less is wasted, and 2) less fuel is used in getting it there.
We think that chemicals designed to kill shouldn’t be on our food. Good for you and the environment!
Come on, there have to be some downsides.
You’re right. The way we see it, there’s one main downside.
Artificial light required
Our plants don’t see the sun, so we provide artificial light, which requires energy. For all the gains in land use, water, and transportation, there is a price. And we pay it in energy.
Thankfully, there have been major innovations in LED technology. We use horticultural LEDs that emit the precise wavelengths of red and blue light that are most important for photosynthesis.
Beyond the technical reasons above, indoor hydroponics makes sense to us because we believe there is value in knowing exactly where our food comes from. We think there’s value in buying from small businesses; from people who are a part of our community. More on this coming soon.
All in all, we think indoor hydroponics is innovative, beneficial, and worth doing. But ultimately, we won’t be the ones to answer the question - you will.