HydroGarden has built a trial version of the patented V-Farm system in its manufacturing headquarters in Coventry – named Project Urban Grow.
The Project Urban Grow unit has a footprint of 24m2 but utilises a growing area of 55m² by layering the hydroponic growing system. The trial project utilises the hydroponic method of NFT, where a thin layer of nutrient solution runs along the base of a gully direct to plant roots. This system can produce just under 2,000 lettuces in 28 days.
Inside the unit are 3 adjustable NFT racks each with a growing area of just over 18m². This allows room to comfortably harvest the crop but ensures that all growing space is utilised.
The Project Urban Grow system has been rigorously trialled by growing lettuces under varying growing conditions. Differing combinations of VitaLink nutrients and additives together with variations to the growing environment have demonstrated the degree of control that this system can achieve. High quality Valoya LED lighting has also been installed alongside other technical controls to ensure optimum energy efficiency and economy.
All lettuces that have been grown in the Project Urban Grow trials have been donated to local charity, Twycross Zoo and gratefully consumed by the elephants.
The whole environment is controlled by a 24 volt Autogrow Multi system which features a modular construction to facilitate maintenance. As well as heating and cooling, CO2 is supplied from bottles and can be set to dose at different times. The daylight regime is one of the parameters being tested in trials and is fully customisable. The entire unit is covered by two CCTV cameras and the control panel can send alert messages to a mobile phone or other remote device when environmental parameters fall outside expected levels. Such remote management is another advantage for the system is situations such as remote oil fields where horticultural expertise is lacking.
Kevin Frediani – Head of Sustainable Agriculture, Bicton College
Julian Chapman – Team Leader of Large Mammals, Twycross Zoo