Starting an Indoor Farm

Starting an Indoor Farm

So you want to be a farmer. If you had wanted to start farming about 10 to 20 years ago, you would’ve met several tall order obstacles, mainly related to knowledge/skills and capital requirements. Here is a quick synopsis: Looking at larger commodity crop farms in the US, most are a generational product, i.e. family businesses. Skills are past down the lineage, because after all, farming as Zen as it might be, is a complex business. Even if you are working your way in as a first generation farmer, it is likely that an apprenticeship of at least a couple of years (to learn the basics of the business) is required. So to own a farm, not only do you need to fork over large sums to get started, but you need specialized knowledge to make it work. Additionally, in many developed parts of the world (outside the US), farms are becoming more industrialized and consolidated to account for a vastly growing population, leading to the same conclusion. How does one go about starting a farm? The good news is that the prevailing winds in the US maybe blowing in favorable direction for the modern farmer. While the bigger family farms are still around, according to the USDA agricultural census data, the majority of farms are classified as small (based on revenue), and the trend may be moving towards “boutique” style operations, CSAs, urban farming ventures, etc. It is now easier than ever to start high-density farms, whether urban or rural. Another interesting trend is that farming is no longer seen as a backbreaking profession, and many college graduates are flocking towards farming and starting... read more

The New Face Of Hydroponics

Evolution? Maybe. Behavior change – definitely. I have to say that there are lots of new faces in hydroponics these days and they are addressing an emerging and growing new demand – that is delicious and locally grown produce. The latest issue of Produce Business, an agricultural trade magazine, addresses the shifting behavior of consumers towards a more local and fresher food source. Vertical Harvest Hydroponics was asked to contribute to this article and we gladly accepted. Here are some behind the scenes Q&A with Jodean Robbins, a writer for Produce Business and Linda Janes of VHH. A link to the full article is at the end of this blog. Q. What are the benefits of hydroponics production in today’s market? Are there certain areas or markets where it makes more sense than others? A. Alaska is one of the states that can benefit the most from a reliable internal food source  – thus we must be on the forefront of the “growing local” movement. Some things to consider, when it comes to AK agriculture: In spite of growing demand, food security due to lack of locally grown food in Alaska, is a huge problem and has been a topic of conversation among many state leaders. Only 1% of AK’s GDP is agriculture (2012 Alaska Economic Performance Report). This number hasn’t changed much in 2014, 2105. Less than one percent (.24%) of Alaska’s 365 million acres of land is farmed; it is estimated only 15 million acres (4%) is suitable for farming. Alaska has 318 different soil types. Permafrost is more than 2,000 feet deep on Alaska’s North Slope About 95% of Alaska’s... read more

Hydroponics in Alaska – Growing Over 30 Cultivars Of Leafy Greens and Herbs

Development of agriculture has allowed the human race to survive, thrive and build cities, and farming is still a profession that occupies a large part of the world. Since the earliest of civilizations, agriculture has undergone significant improvements. In comparison to cultivating our own food and livestock, modern agriculture has given us higher yields and extra time to put in into development of other enjoyable and needed products such as phones, computers, automobiles, etc. BUT. We are seeing a compelling shift. Simply stated, more and more people are interested in locally grown food and produce. Because food has become less expensive and takes up a smaller portion of our budget, people are looking at it more intently, particularly the quality of our food and the impact it has on our lives: Demand for local food has been rapidly increasing. Number of farmers markets has more than quadrupled over the past two decades (Nation wide from 1,755 in 1994 to 8,144 in 2013) According to The Organic & Natural 2014, national syndicated research by the Hartman Group, ” ’local’ is emerging as a category poised to surpass both organic and natural as a symbol of transparency and trust.” (know your farmer) We’ve seen fundamental behavior changes away from big packaged mass-produced foods to locally grown, artisanal and highly nutritious options. As technology improves even further, the next step in agricultural revolution is growing quality food locally and sustainably on a mass scale. With the rise in environmental consciousness and population growth, controlled environment agriculture (CEA) a.k.a. indoor growing, may be the perfect answer and the next logical step in addressing the latest paradigm shift... read more

Establishing Food Security in Alaska – The Indoor Growing Chapter

Anchorage, Alaska 2015 has been a year of centennial celebration, which also brings the responsibility of hindsight reflection and steering into the future with prosperous goals to make our city and state a great place to live, work and play. VHH team recently attended a panel discussion at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel focusing on Alaska’s economic history and possibilities for the future. The panelists included Margie Brown, former President & CEO of CIRI; Larry Cash, founder, President & CEO of RIM Architects; and Dr. Rashmi Prasad, Dean of the College of Business and Public Policy at the University of Alaska Anchorage. With oil prices looming at the bottom of the barrel, part of the discussion was centered around creating comparisons, but focusing on contrasts between Anchorage in the 1980s and Anchorage now. Another part was to acknowledge tough times ahead as the state restructures its budget and revenue sources in attempt to grow other industries. So where do we start? Margie Brown made an insightful point about generating revenue via value added services. What she was saying is that there is much higher chance for success to create revenue by expanding on existing industries rather than starting from scratch. Not to say that it’s impossible to get started in a new industry, and perhaps, the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), is one such example. And even then, with a healthy aviation industry, UAS development is getting a jump start in areas of workforce availability and research. But nevertheless, to expand more on Margie’s comment, we see this opportunity as a Two pronged approach: 1. Dissecting an industry into its parts and exploiting each part in... read more

Growing Red Leaf Lettuce Hydroponically

Red Leaf is here. Since our very first produce bounty in mid May, we’ve been harvesting lettuce every week.  It has been very exciting and gratifying to see the crops grow so well in the Gen. II CGS. While we’ve been mostly growing Butter Lettuce (bib lettuce), a few weeks back we planted a Red Leaf variety and were rewarded with an awesome harvest last week. Red leaf is a type of loose-leaf lettuce, with delicate leaves, despite its crunchy stem in the middle. Similar to Green Leaf, but with maroon pigment deposited on the edges and the leaves themselves, this loose leaf variety likes to sprawl a bit while it’s growing and thus requires some “dressing up” before it can hit the shelves. To help with that, we’ve created a new branding look for this lettuce – an Alaska grown twist tie with a custom flag that shows variety, growing methods and its origin. Think of it as nifty outfit for its debut at the stores that also helps collect all the leaves in one awesome bunch. As always, you can find this beautiful variety at Bell’s Nursery and select Carrs/Safeway stores in Anchorage, Alaska. What’s the difficulty level growing produce hydroponically? Our goal is to demonstrate to our future clients the simplicity behind growing fresh and nutritious produce hydroponically, here in Alaska and around the world. We’ve already researched the type and quantity of nutrients and water you will need, the seed varieties, the proper growing medium, the time from seeding to harvesting, the best LED lights, the right temperature and airflow, all to optimize the growing environment and to take... read more

How and where to find our lettuce

Just like a treasure hunt, find this label in stores and you’ll get rewarded with soft and juicy butter lettuce, hydroponically grown by your team at Vertical  Harvest.   Non-GMO and pesticide free, we take care to select the best varieties and produce the freshest leafy greens. When you eat this lettuce, you have a piece of mind knowing that it was picked just a few hours or few days ago at most, right here in Anchorage. It takes us about an hour to harvest and package the lettuce, which means that it can be on your dinner table the same day! The fresher the produce, the more nutrients it retains, the more profound are the health benefits.   Where to shop: Carrs in Anchorage (Huffman or Aurora) and Bell’s Nursery on Specking Road. While you are at Bell’s, you can get your hands on a fresh harvest of vine ripened tomatoes and cucumbers and send your daily veggies recommendation into overdrive.   To your health, The farmers at... read more

Butterhead Lettuce – We are in stores!

As of this week, you can purchase our hydroponically grown butter (bib) lettuce at Carrs/Safeway on Huffman Road or at Bell’s Nursery – just in time to satisfy all those summer time cravings for fresh, local produce. Bib Lettuce Ideas   The giant leaves of butter lettuce are a perfect addition to your beef, chicken or salmon burger. No hard to chew leaf vines – just smooth texture  and delicious taste.   These wide leaves are also ideal for a wrap. Just take sautéed veggies, caramelized onions,  and add some lime drizzled shrimp. For an extra health kick, garnish with garlic, mango and sprinkle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Choices are endless.   Want to impress your guests? How about a classic caesar using butter lettuce? Or perhaps something even more quick and simple: combine butter lettuce with a choice of other greens, add onion, pear, cranberries, crumbled feta or blue cheese and serve with a ginger vinaigrette. Sprinkle a generous amount of chia seeds for an antioxidant powerhouse. Enjoy.   Have you tried our lettuce yet? How does it... read more