What began as a ninth-grade science fair project has turned into an
all-consuming father and son enterprise in the Frazier household.
Last fall, Brad Frazier, 14, set out to prove that tomatoes grown using a
hydroponic (cultivating plants in water) system would out-perform tomatoes
grown in soil.
Six months later, the experiment, which won third place at the regional
science fair, has expanded into an innovative and impressive growing
operation at their St. Rose home and a subsequent stand at the Gretna
A 20-by-40-foot greenhouse, built by the duo, sits in the corner of their
yard, bursting with leafy vegetables and herbs. Brad Frazier and father,
Lonnie, built everything themselves — from the elevated water beds to the
water circulating system using automatic timers, 55-gallon drums, water
bottles and PVC pipe.
Brad Frazier sells his home-grown hydroponic lettuce and herbs at the
Gretna Farmers Market.
For about $50, the Fraziers were able to build a mister that would have
cost $500, said Lonnie Frazier, and a raised bed for about $400, that would
have cost close to $5,000. “It’s not as nice looking, but it’s functional,”
he said. To build the frame of greenhouse, they found a “pipe-bender” on
The Fraziers successfully found sources for obtaining the barrels from
local businesses — the clear ones once held soap, while the blue ones were
filled with hot sauce. The vendors at the Gretna Farmer’s Market, Lonnie
Frazier said, have also been another much-appreciated resource
The plants in the Frazier greenhouse use a variety of material for
stability in the water, from burlap for the microgreens and rocks for the
bell peppers, to a specially designed foam for the lettuce and coconut
shells for the tomatoes.
Already, Brad Frazier said he has plans for expansion. They want to build
a new greenhouse, he said, at twice the size, and a pond for goldfish, koi
and perch. So far, Brad Frazier said his lettuce is his “prized-possession”
and hopes to devote an entire greenhouse to it. He grows butterhead, oakleaf
and baby romaine. He’s found the “baby” or miniature varieties — like his
baby cucumbers, are popular among buyers.
“I feel if people found out how easy it is you’d find more people doing
it,” Lonnie Frazier said. “It’s not as expensive as people believe. It just
takes a little time and a little ingenuity.”
As for the science fair project: “Fish, Dirt, or Water: Which grows
tomatoes best,” Brad’s hypothesis that aquaponics would come out on top was
close to correct. His dad’s bet was on the hydroponics, which did emerge victorious, but
the aquaponic set-up was close behind. Using graphs that tracked plant
height and fruit productivity, Brad’s experiment showed that the hydroponic
plants produced 30 tomatoes, the aquaponic produced 23 and the soil-grown
plants produced six.
ICKY COATINGS ON YOUR
If your plants or medium have a slimy or fuzzy green, white, black or grey
coating, you probably have a fungus or mold problem. Read on:
Hydro Tip of the Month- What to grow?