Going Green: Future-Growing of [Colorful] Foods
You might be surprised to learn that Jordan Rubin is growing four varieties of lettuce as well as cucumbers in a pair of hydroponic towers that are situated in his backyard patio. Okay, you might say, but what is a hydroponic tower?
A hydroponic tower is a way of cultivating plants with water and nutrients without soil. Jordan, in fact, has “twin towers”, each standing around five feet tall. The bottom of the tower holds a water reserve tank with nutrients. A small low-voltage electric water pump transports the water to the top of the tower and descends by gravity, irrigating the plants and returning to the bottom tank. The plants grow out of small holes in the tower. And the great thing is that you can plant lettuce, herbs, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard, cucumbers, strawberries, tomatoes, and medicinal herbs—just about anything you want.
A company called Future Growing produced Jordan’s hydroponic towers. The owner and president of Future Growing is Tim Blank, who worked for Disney’s Epcot theme park in Orlando, Florida for a dozen years—until 2005. At Epcot, which is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, Blank used his training in hydroponic agriculture to manage Epcot’s agricultural showcase of food crops from around the world.
“I was responsible for Epcot’s futuristic, cutting-edge agricultural display, open 365 days a year, utilizing hydroponics and sustainable growing practices from around the world,” Blank explains. “I believe one of the greatest futurists who ever lived was a man named Walt Disney.”
Walt Disney’s pioneering vision of a better tomorrow is one of the reasons why Tim Blank founded Future Growing with the dream that someday every human on the planet would have access to healthy, pesticide-free food right in their own home and local community. (You can check out their website at www.futuregrowing.com for more information.)
The company installs residential glasshouses and glass rooms that attach to homes like sunrooms so that people can grow their own organic fruits and vegetables year round. Those seeking a smaller investment can purchase hydroponic towers, which cost around $500 a piece, as a way to get into organic and hydroponic gardening.
“With our Future Growing Tower Gardens, people tend to grow a lot of lettuce and herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, but it’s the gourmet lettuce that seems to be making the biggest impact,” Blank says. “People are used to spending good money in the store for healthy, clean lettuce, but with our tower systems, they can grow lettuce in half the time at very little cost with no pesticide on the leaves.”
Blank continues, “With our growing systems, you have real quality control of the food going into your body. Our company is introducing this technology to the green and eco-friendly community. What I tell people is that lettuce is one of the easiest crops in the world to grow.
Commercial lettuce production, however, is one of those terrible examples of leaving a huge carbon footprint on the world when you consider the environmental costs to grow, harvest, and deliver that one head of lettuce from the fields to the grocery store near you. Think about it: farmers of conventional lettuce use lots of water and petroleum-based chemicals to maintain it and grow it. After harvesting, the lettuce is packaged, then refrigerated to keep chilled. All that takes gobs of energy, plus the fuel costs to ship the lettuce across the country. Supermarket lettuce sits on a chilled store shelf for several more days, where it has a very short shelf life.”
Blank says the new growing technologies make sustainability fun because the food is exploding with flavor and nutrition. “Children want to eat healthy when the food tastes great, and they can actually help and watch it grow,” he said. But the real secret, he says, is Future Growing’s proprietary blend of pH-balanced water-soluble nutrients and minerals that provide the plants with great nutrition and abundant growth. Additionally, the technology behind Future Growing recycles 100 percent of the nutrients and water and uses only 5 to 10 percent of the water that conventional or organic farmers use in the field.
Blank sees this as being a key component in the future sustainability of our planet. But why wait? You can start future growing of your favorite foods today.