Home made NFT

by Barry Thoele
(Staples, MN)




Click each photo to enlarge

I have gone beyond the gardening stage and now sell to the local grocery store and to the hospital and soon to be the schools.
90 heads of romaine in a 6 foot by 12 foot bay (system).
Start up was less than $200. and can be used indoors or out.
I have 7 bays operating now to produce 90 heads per week.
I sell with the root ball still attached and wrapped in a wet paper towel or in the case of the grocery store, I set up a display with cups filled half full of water and let the customer take the plant and the cup.
They love the romaine and can place the cup on the counter at home (keep it watered lika a house plant)
and they can pick leaves as they need it and the plant will live for 7-10 days with a water change every three days.
And they get a beautiful and edible plant on the kitchen counter.
Barry
Barry's Cherries
Staples, MN

Comments for Home made NFT

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Lettuce
by: Anonymous

What kind of nutrients do you use? Do you have to do anything special at time of harvest to preserve quality? How do you transport them to market?

Nutrients
by: Barry Thoele

I use exclusively Hydro-gardens.com nutrients for each specific type plant I grow.
I mix the strength according to the EC of the mix.
The lettuce nutrient works well for all greens and most herbs.
The tomato nutrient is fantastic.
With my success the UofM has taken notice and have appointed me in charge of the new hydroponics lab here in Staples, MN an 1200 sq. ft. indoor growing area under HID lights.
I am 3 weeks into the project and we are already harvesting Kale, Cilantro, baby salad greens,(from 3'x8'x6" bunks filled with coir and irrigated through .5 gph drip tape (great production, 15 days,though I don't know if they will require reseeding after harvest or will regrow) These bunks are on wheels so they can be moved in and out of the growing areas. I will add pics if they work as planned.
we will have spinach and cukes by Feb. 1 and tomatoes and cherry tomatoes by mid Feb.
The building allows for up to 12 1000w MH or HPS light on movers. And will be the next big thing if they work as I hope. (they did last year so I see no reason why they wouldn't this year) and the best thing about it is the U is paying the cost of the lights and the electric will be supplied by a generator run on bio- diesel from a grant program.
I couldn't dream this stuff up in my wildest.
Barry

question about selling
by: Jeff

Hi, Your system sounds great. I was wondering how much do you sell a head of lettuce for? Also, you say that you wrap it in a wet paper towel and can be kept on the kitchen counter. I was wondering how this works. I assume that you produce them in plastic cups with holes in them and when then the cups can be placed in a container of water i=on the counter or something like that ---right? The paper towels just wrap around the roots and cup til they get to the counter?

Thanks.

live lettuce
by: Barry

In this nft system I don't grow in cups the grodan cubes sit on the bottom of the gutter and the nutrient and roots run down the gutter.
The roots will mesh together and need to be separtated but his is easy with a little pressure on the roots between the plants they separate.
You then need only to push the center of the rootball through the hole in the top and bag the lettuce. I now use produce bags because I am producing 200 heads per week.
With a new 2880 sq ft. solar greenhouse I will soon be at over 500 per week.
It takes about 1 1/2 hours to harvest 150 heads of romaine which is my biggest account.

I would love to see more pictures..
by: chrissy

how did you make your system????

Pics
by: B

I'll get some posted soon. I had a class to teach today on how to build and operate a simple 90 plant system (a basic learning system) toe help get other growers up to commercial level.
I have a plan to get 10 growers here to the level of 1000 heads per week by next summer. With the market so strong I don't want to lose the opportunity and there are many out there that need jobs and/or a stable income.
I have wholesalers now looking for up to 20,000 heads per week.
My own business plan call for doubling production each of the next four years to 16 structures each producing 450-500 heads per week.
8000 heads per week at $1.50 per head (wholesale).

Pics and update
by: Barry

I have started a new blog on the next phase of production.
Update on homemade NFT The next step.
You can see where it has gone.

sound like something I would like to do
by: Anonymous

I am in central wisconsin Would you say it is more feasible to raise the lettuce in a solar green house than under lights? What grant did you apply for? Where is your blog located???

Lots of questions for you but I am interested in someday setting up my own!

building types
by: Barry

I would recommend using as much natural sunlight as is possible. First because it alreadiy is full spectrum and free. Second is the cost of operating HID lighting is expensive in Kw and in the fixtures necessary. Also lights without movers is somewhat problematic in that it does not provide as good of coverage to all side of the leaves. Shading can limit the size and quality of the leaves and or heads. As the light moves it reaches many more leaf surfaces. Movers also allow greater coverage with fewer lights thus operating reducing costs.
The solar greenhouses I built and am building over the next four years are designed to operate year round with minimal heat inputs and using the sun to grow as much as possible. A single 30 x 96 2880 sq ft can house up to 2700 lettuce plants and produce 450-500 heads per week (winter) and 650-700 heads per week in summer. Based on day lenght and growing cycles. The solar greenhouse design will absorb solar radiation during the day as it strikes the black rear (north) concrete wall and fans cirulate the heat throughout the building at night. This same wall in summer will be shaded and will be used to cool the building.
I have plans to grow more than greens in the future (cherry tomatoes and cucumbers) which will require HID lights as the day length in winter is not long enough for fruiting crops. I have already spoken to my electric coop and they have agreeed to allow me to run the lights on off peak.
The lights will turn on at 12 am and run until 8 am so it fits the program. This also will provide some heat as each 1000w HPS give off 650 Btu's of heat per hour. The solar greenhouse will be the same size 30 x 96 and shoud be able to house 80 cherry tomato plants and 80 cucumber.
Planned production should be 250# of cherry tomatoes and 400# of cucumbers per week.
So far I have funded all the research myself (no grants). I have another blog on this site with pics of the new greenhouse and production system.

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