Past Project Profiles

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1. Cuisinart Golf Resort & Spa

(Refer to “Tour of Cuisinart Golf Resort & Spa Hydroponic Farm”)

Cuisinart Golf Resort & Spa is a luxury hotel resort on the Caribbean island of Anguilla, B.W.I. It is the only hotel facility in the world that has its own hydroponic farm to produce its fresh salad crops such as tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, herbs, bok choy and others. These are grown in a greenhouse environment with hydroponics of water and perlite cultures.

2. California Watercress, Inc.

California Watercress is located in Fillmore, CA. They specialize in watercress and other herbs. They have 60 acres of watercress in conventional field beds that with a shortage of water during drought periods were declining in production. A hydroponic NFT system was developed to overcome the lack of water through more efficient use.

3. F.W. Armstrong Ranch

F.W. Armstrong Ranch near Somis, CA was growing European bibb lettuce in a specialized narrow channel NFT system previously developed by Whittaker Corp. Their long channels, up to 150 ft, caused lack of oxygen and nutrient gradients. The system was re-designed to shorter channels to overcome these problems.

4. Hidroponias Venezolanas

Hidroponias Venezolanas of Caracas, Venezuela, has a farm in the mountains about 20 miles from the city. Located on a steep hillside, the growing beds were terraced at different levels. They grow head lettuce, watercress, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Watercress is grown in an ebb-and-flow water culture system, lettuce in sand culture and the others in pots of coco-coir and rice-hull mix with drip irrigation.

5. Environmental Farms, Inc.

Environmental Farms was located in Dundee, Florida. A previous nursery greenhouse operation of 3 acres was converted to European cucumber production using rockwool culture. A central injection and drip irrigation system was designed and installed to feed the plants automatically. Many challenges of the hot, humid climate had to be resolved from growing cycles and techniques to pest and disease management.

6. Hoppmann Hydroponics

Hoppmann Hydroponics had two operations of about 1/2 – acre each, one in Homestead and the other in Waverly, Florida. Raft culture was used to grow the lettuce hydroponically. Raceways of special plastic extrusions glued to form beds 2 ft x 100 ft. were connected to a closed system with a nutrient solution cistern.

7. Gourmet Hydroponics, Inc.

Gourmet Hydroponics, located in Lake Wales, Florida, grew lettuce in an NFT system on raised benches. European bibb lettuce was grown on a daily cycle of seeding, planting and harvesting.

8. Resh Greenhouses Ltd.

Resh Greenhouses, Ltd was situated in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. We specialized in manufacturing backyard greenhouses with hydroponic culture. Gravel culture was used to grow crops as lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. We sold these greenhouses with complete environmental control systems, including heating and cooling.


California Watercress, Inc.

California Watercress, Inc., in Fillmore, CA, farms about 60 acres of watercress in conventional field beds using diverted water from the Santa Clara River. During drought years the water table falls substantially and the volume of flow from the river decreases significantly curtailing watercress production.

A modified NFT system was designed at a relatively low cost to conserve the water. This was an open (non-recirculation) system. After laser leveling the site to a 2% (photo 1) grade beds were constructed in sections of four 10 ft. x 500 ft. with a road between each section. Sides of the beds were created by making berms of soil using a tractor with double disks. The underground irrigation distribution system was installed before making the berms. The beds were lined with 10-mil black polyethylene (photo 2). With the first project the beds were lined with a capillary mat, but due to root build-up and difficulty in cleaning between crops we found it better to use a weed mat cover with future beds (photo 3). The 3-acre project had 20 beds.

The irrigation system consisted of a main well pump which provided a 10,000-gallon storage tank from where the water was distributed by a 50 HP booster pump to 8” mains and 4” submains (photo 4). The water was looped through an injector system to supply nutrients to the beds of plants. To provide water to the watercress, a double irrigation system was developed using raw water flow constantly and injection of nutrient solution periodically to the beds sequentially along their length.

Plants were started by broadcasting seed over a pea gravel substrate in two special propagation beds (photo 5). Overhead sprinklers located on the berms maintained moisture levels during germination. Six weeks from sowing the seedlings reached 2 to 3 inches tall and were transplanted to the growing beds. The seedlings were spread across the moistened growing bed during transplanting to back up the flow of water and distribute it evenly across the bed (photo 6).

The cropping schedule was every 3 to 4 weeks between harvests (photo 7). The watercress was cut by hand and made in bunches (photo 8). Each bed produced between 500 and 600 dozen bunches. Usually 2 to 3 cuts could be made before changing the plants. The hydroponic watercress had larger leaves, longer stems, was more succulent and of a milder flavor than the traditional field-grown product. We termed it “HydroCress” to differentiate these quality differences.

F.W. Armstrong Ranch:

European bibb lettuce was grown in a narrow channel NFT initially of 150 ft. in length. This created oxygen deficit and nutrient gradients along the channels. As a result, the channels were split into two sections of 73 ft. in length. This was a closed system with a cistern to store the returned solution.

Seedlings were started in cell trays with vermiculite substrate. The trays were placed on an ebb-and-flow bench to irrigate. After 3 weeks the seedlings were transplanted to the NFT channels using a unique moveable tape cover in each growing channel. A planting-harvesting machine fed a coiled heavy plastic tape into grooves of the growing channel as the transplants were placed in the holes of the tape (photo 9). During harvesting the tape was pulled by the same machine to the opposite end of the channels as the person cut the plants at their crown. Planting was scheduled so that rows at various stages of maturity were mixed to minimize mutual shading (photo 10).

The channels were constructed of aluminum 3 inches wide by 2 inches deep (photo 11). They were supported on steel tube benching. From the cooling pads of the greenhouse fans blew cool air underneath the beds to keep the temperature of the channels at optimum levels. Nutrient solution was pumped from a 500-gallon cistern to the inlet end of each channel. The channels were sloped at 2% toward a catchment pipe that returned the solution to the cistern. Plants were spaced 6 inches by 6 inches.
The cropping schedule of the lettuce was from 28 to 38 days (photo 12), depending upon weather conditions, especially sunlight hours, and day-length, with the shorter period between harvests occurring during the late spring-early summer months. About 10 crops per year were produced. The lettuce was packed in plastic bags and shipped in boxes to supermarkets.

Hidroponias Venezolanas:

Traditional cultivation of watercress and lettuce is in the valleys of the hills near Caracas. Watercress is grown in streams heavily polluted from the surrounding urbanization. Amoebic dysentery organisms were present in the watercress causing illness which in turn reduced its marketability. Hidroponias Venezolanas undertook the opportunity of growing clean watercress free of amoebic dysentery.

Located on a steep hillside, terraces of 1 to 2 acres were cut out to locate the growing beds (photo 13). Raised beds were constructed due to the presence of rock and heavy tropical rains that would damage ground level beds. The beds 7 ft. by 30 ft. were constructed of metal frames and clay bricks. The bricks were coated with concrete and sealed with bituminous paint (photo 14). This is an ebb-and-flow system as there is no substrate and irrigation cycles periodically flood the beds to several inches in depth.

The nutrient solution is stored in a 13,000-gal. concrete cistern from where it is pumped to the beds every 15 minutes for 5 minutes. The beds are filled 1 to 2 inches in depth. The solution enters through a 1-inch black polyethylene tubing connected to a 3-inch main from the cistern entering one end of the beds (photo 15). It drains to the other end and exits through an 8-inch catchment pipe returning the solution to the cistern.

With the location of the farm at about 4000 ft. above sea level, the daily maximum and minimum temperatures of 79-82 F and 59-64 F respectively are ideal for watercress. Cuttings are placed directly into the beds and flooded with about 1-inch of nutrient solution. First harvest is within 4 weeks, and consecutive harvests in 3- to 4-week cycles. The crop is changed every 6 to 8 months due to excessive root build up in the bottom of the beds that impedes the flow of solution.

Sowing of seeds in specialized propagation beds is part of a rejuvenation program to improve vigor and overcome the spread of virus diseases. Coarse sand and pea gravel is the substrate for the seedling beds. After 5 to 6 weeks the seedlings are transplanted to the growing beds.

The watercress is sold in packages to supermarkets and bulk in bins for restaurants. It is cut with knives and placed in tote bins to be washed, centrifuged, weighed, bagged, and sealed with automated equipment in a packing facility to maintain cleanliness. The bulk sales product has longer stems than the packaged material, so is generally harvested every 25 to 28 days, whereas, the packaged product is harvested younger at 14 to 16 days as less stem is preferred in salads.

The farm also grows head lettuce in sand culture and tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in pots containing a mixture of rice hulls and coco coir (photo 16). The system is a drip irrigation system with a large cistern from where the solution is pumped.

Environmental Farms:

Environmental Farms converted a 3-acre nursery greenhouse into a European cucumber operation using rockwool culture. Located in Dundee, Florida, many challenges were faced due to hot, humid weather conditions. Cropping schedules and growing techniques were modified to overcome these challenges.

A rockwool culture system was designed and installed with an injector and drip irrigation. An injection loop using raw water from a storage tank makes up the nutrient solution for the plants. The main irrigation lines and drainage system was installed in the floor before backfilling the area with 4 inches of sand. Once the drainage and irrigation system was completed the entire floor area was covered with a 6-mil polyethylene liner. The black poly hoses with the drip lines to the rockwool slabs were installed and then the rockwool slabs placed after the entire irrigation system was operable.

Seedlings were started in 1-inch rockwool cubes on meshed benches. After 7 days they were transplanted to 3-inch rockwool blocks. At 14 days the seedlings were transplanted to the rockwool slabs (photo 17). The slabs were soaked with nutrient solution for 24 hours prior to making drainage holes at their bases and transplanting two plants per slab. Plants were supported by poly string from overhead cables. Irrigation cycles were controlled automatically from a “start tray” located within the crop. Also, the leachate was monitored by a collection tray to regulate the leachate at 20 to 25 percent. Within 2 1/2 weeks the plants were over 3 feet tall growing 6 to 8 inches per day (photo 18).

Plants were trained in a modified renewal umbrella technique with only one leader over the support cable. This technique was adopted to permit adequate sunlight due to the extremely vigorous growth under Florida conditions. With the high temperatures and relative humidity the crops were changed every 4 months as their yields declined. Annual production averaged from 10 to 13 fruit per square foot or 73 to 93 fruit per plant.

Harvesting began 40 days from seeding. The fruit was transported to the packing facility in plastic tote bins with a tractor and trailer (photo 19). The cucumbers were shrink wrapped with an L-bar sealer and oven. They were packed 12 fruit per case, palletized and placed in cold storage at 50 to 55 F. Most of the product was shipped to the northeastern U.S. and Canada.

Hoppmann Hydroponics:

Hoppmann Hydroponics produced European bibb lettuce at two locations, Homestead and Waverly, Florida. The growing system was raft culture. Several half-acre greenhouses were constructed of glass with a concrete floor.

The beds or “raceways” consisted of plastic sections glued together to form a bed 24” wide by 8” deep by 100 ft long. They were placed on the concrete floor of the greenhouse together to form a section of 11 beds separated by a 24-inch aisle for access. Each bed had its own inlet and outlet from a cistern of 1200 gallons. Each bed contained about 1000 U.S. gallons, so most of the nutrient solution was in the beds themselves. As the nutrient solution returned to the cistern it was aerated by an air pump, chilled with a refrigeration chiller unit and then pumped back to the inlet end of the beds after passing through a UV sterilizer (photo 20).

The boards or “rafts” consisted of a high-density “roofmate” Styrofoam. Each board measured 1-inch x 6-inches x 24-inches. Four 1-inch diameter holes were cut in the boards at 6-inch centers. The rafts prevented light from entering the solution underneath, supported the plants and insulated the solution. During harvesting a boat winch that was attached to one end of a string secured by 3-4 hooks to several of the boards, pulled them toward the harvesting end of the bed. During transplanting the boards were pushed along the bed from the harvesting end as the plants were placed in them. Each bed was harvested completely and then the solution drained to waste and the bed sterilized before making up a new solution for the bed.

Transplanting of seedlings was 18 days after sowing. Sowing, transplanting and harvesting were daily tasks to keep a continuous production cycle. The cropping period in the beds varied from 28 to 35 days depending upon the sunlight and temperature conditions (photo 21). In areas of high sunlight and day-length averages between 14 to 16 hours, 10 to 12 crops can be grown annually.

Gourmet Hydroponics, Inc:

Located in Lake Wales, Florida, Gourmet Hydroponics grew bibb lettuce in Rehau NFT channels 12 feet long. The NFT gutters were supported on a 3-foot high galvanized steel-pipe bench (photo 22) The lettuce was started in rockwool cubes and transplanted to the channels at 14 days. The channels were sloped 2% toward the catchment pipe that returned the solution to a cistern. This was a closed or recirculation system. As the solution was pumped back to the inlet of the channels it passed through a UV sterilizer. The solution was cooled in the cistern by a chiller unit.

Plants were spaced 7 inches within the channels and the channels were 8 inches apart. During harvesting the channels were removed with the plants intact and placed on a support at the end of the benching where they were cut at the crown with a knife (photo 23). The lettuce was packaged and placed in refrigeration for shipping. The channels were sterilized after harvesting in a vat of 10% bleach solution. As soon as they air dried the channels were returned to the support bench and new transplants placed in them.

Resh Greenhouses Ltd:

Resh Greenhouses Ltd of Vancouver, B.C., Canada specialized in the manufacturing of backyard hobby hydroponic greenhouses. The greenhouses were constructed of aluminum framing and corrugated fiberglass covering. The greenhouses were available in a number of model sizes; 8-ft x 12-ft, 10-ft x 12-ft, 10-ft x 16-ft and 10-ft x 20-ft (photo 24). They were fully equipped with heating, cooling and supplemental artificial lighting in addition to an automated hydroponic system (photo 25).

Beds 2-ft wide by 6-inches deep by the length of the greenhouse were supported over a fiberglass tank. Pea gravel was the substrate. The plants were fed by a drip irrigation system operated by a pump and time-clock controller. The solution returned to the tank after passing through the crop.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce and herbs were grown successfully with the hydroponic greenhouses (photo 26). All of the clients enjoyed their greenhouses growing their vegetables year-round. It not only produced fresh vegetables for them all year, but also provided them with an “escape” from the stresses of their daily work, especially during the dark winter, rainy days of the Vancouver climate.