Hydroponics micro farms by General Hydroponics Noucetta Kehdi
General Hydroponics was founded in California in 1976, by Lawrence Brooke. At that time most people didn’t know what hydroponics was, except for scientists who used it for research, governments to grow food for their troops, and some of the first industrial greenhouse owners for large-scale food production… and a group of visionaries gathered around GH. Our option at GH, since the very first days, was to open our technology to the main public, including plant collectors, home gardeners, and family farmers. At the time when the first industrial greenhouses were developing, we had already opted for small scale, local, high quality food production, replacing soil and soilless methods of growing plants with aero-hydroponics, our specialty. Precursors as always, our vision was a sustainable, human-size hydroponic family garden, with priority given to quality rather than quantity, and durability rather than economical growth at all costs. You might say that family gardens are nothing new; they exist since the beginning of times. And you are right. The “only” innovation we bring is “hydroponics”, as a viable and ecological alternative to plant production, with multiple advantages http://gb.eurohydro.com/hydroponics. html). Most importantly: Salad and herbs in a micro farm in Perm - Russia • Hydroponics can be installed everywhere: in the countryside and in the most crowded city, in poor regions and in extreme conditions, bringing food production closer to the end consumer, and reducing the carbon print of proces sing and shipping to the strict minimum. • It can take any shape and be adapted to any space. Considering that hydroponics, when well managed, can give as much as 30% more yield, the smallest growing area becomes a potential garden. Especially in crowded areas. • It insures high quality, nutritious and safe plants for your family and community. • It uses 80 to 90% less water than the same crop grown in soil. • It helps optimize the potential of your plant’s genetics • It uses no herbicides and generally resorts to integrated pest management. • It is has an excellent return upon investment. In 1991 in Sebastopol, California, William Texier and myself created one of the first hydroponics micro farms in the world, the “White Owl WaterFarm”, which inspired several hydroponics operations since then. During a few years this is where we acquired most of our knowledge and experience, growing a large variety of plants from tomatoes to peppers and chilies, salads, herbs, peas and beans, kale, chard, and many more. We even tried carrots and beets, just to test feasibility. The White Owl was a 450m2 setting covered with different size AeroFlos. We used Flora Series and our pH regulators, nothing else, and got the best results. Our greenhouse had a very basic but sufficient program regulating ventilation and temperature, as this is priority. We wanted to keep it a lowcost but durable investment and accessible to our purse, so we kept it simple, with the human eye as the main control. For sales, we specialized in Genovese basil and yellow and red sweet peppers following the demand from the North of San Francisco bay restaurants and fine groceries. With fresh, flavorful produce and rapid local service, the White Owl became rapidly fully self sufficient. Then, in 1995, we created General Hydroponics in the South West of France, built more greenhouses, and extended our The White Owl WaterFarm in Sebastopol - California experience to numerous other varieties, including medicinal, aromatic, roots and rhizomes, cacti, rare, collectibles, etc, all of them growing in our hydroponic systems and with our nutrients. We can easily say today that since 1991 we grew more than 500 different varieties, which gives as a unique experience growing plants hydroponically.
Tomatoes growing in a micro farm in California
With quality in mind since the very beginning, GH created our first hydroponic mineral nutrient, Flora Series (FloraGro, FloraMicro and FloraBloom) in 1976. Efficient and easy to use with only 3 products to mix and clear feeding charts, Flora Series serves your plants with a balanced diet in an extremely efficient way. The purpose of this multi-component concept is to obtain a high-grade, complete, liquid, and very soluble nutrient that would be easy to adapt to the largest range of plants, while offering them the best nutrition according to their needs and life cycles. To make sure we produce healthy and safe foods we use purified mineral salts, and blend them in-house, following accurate proprietary formulas created by our researchers and tested in our greenhouses. And to guarantee optimal results, we regularly update our products with the latest scientific discoveries … but in a reasonable way, keeping in mind sustainability and durability.
To address the organic food production sector, William Texier invented and patented “bioponics” (organic hydroponics) in 2004 in France, with BioSevia. This is the first liquid nutrient to comply with European regulations on organic agriculture, while giving the best results in hydroponics. Depending on legislations and countries, “bioponic” products may, or may not, be accepted by organic regulators. Generally the simple fact that you are not growing in earth will remove definitively this possibility. But fertile soil and space are not always available, and in our hydroponic micro farms we promote “reasoned” agriculture where the safety of food and self-sufficiency are among the main priorities. In 2008 we completed BioSevia with General Organics, including new and unique supplements for hydro like worm casting or nettle brew. Concerning supplements, we did not use them much until well into the late ‘90s. Our experience growing plants in hydro with only Flora Series and well-balanced EC and pH levels, had always given us the most plentiful crops. However, the more we learned about plants and plant nutrition, the more we learned about the advantages of some supplements. These products do not bring more food to the plant; they optimize growth in different ways, depending on their nature: humic and fulvic acids help better assimilate mineral salts, silicate powder helps develop resistance to pests and disease, nettle brew helps improve immune system, etc, etc. So that today, in our plant production projects, be it salads, tomatoes, basil or strawberries, we continue using mainly Flora Series and the regulators. Depending on needs, and what we have to achieve for our plants, we will add supplements. For instance, just last month, we saved a small production of salads growing in an AeroFlo with General Organics, from a pythium attack by adding Mineral Magic for a few days.
Ginger for the family growing in a hydro pot
Our hydroponic micro farm concept would not be possible without the systems. Our choice goes to the AeroFlo. After 25 years growing plants in hydroponics, and trying many other systems, this is still our favorite for small and large operations. The AeroFlo is a high-tech machine adapted to our daily needs. It maintains the perfect level of oxygen in the nutritive solution, and has an excellent circulation rate, two basic conditions for good growth. It is fast, flexible and modular, and may be used for propagation as well as production. The AeroFlos adjust to all growing areas. It is a onetime, long-term investment, low in maintenance and user friendly. Depending on crops, we may also use our “DPS hydro” systems, especially for rhizomes like ginger or mint production. If hydroponic micro farms like the White Owl WaterFarm were a little too advanced for their time in 1991, they are right on the spot in 2014. Some already exist here and there on the planet, and they are spreading fast. Wherever they are, they encounter large success. Today one of my goals is to develop hydroponic micro farms as widely as I can because they are the right answer to many social and ecological difficulties humanity is facing. Those small size, low investment/high return operations will provide healthy food locally, and participate to the community’s welfare, bringing back the production of basic foods into the hands of each and everyone of us, exactly what our society needs today. In my dreams I can see little models of the White Owl sprouting everywhere on our planet, and in all the neighborhoods worldwide. Spinach roots growing with Flora Series in an AeroFlo
For more information, please visit us at the 2014 Soilless Gardening (India) Conference and Mini-Expo, Feb. 7-8, at the Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre, India. you can contact us at email@example.com and visit our website at www.eurohydro.com.