Fresh produce is always the game of the day in a quality restaurant and New York restaurateur John Mooney has taken the concept to a modern dimension. The introduction of a rooftop hydroponic garden. This allows food being served at Bell, Book and Candle to have a large portion of its daily produce selected from its vertical roof top garden.
Vertical hydroponics is a fairly modern way of farming and maximising space but the original hydroponic technology linking plants with water isn’t as new as people think. But what has changed is the way people look at food and this is driving modern gardening technologies.
Another important aspect of hydroponics besides being able to grow things on your doorstep is that its also environmental with the reduced cost of water usage to conventional farming which can be using as little as 10% in comparison to large scale agriculture. The nutrient injections to the roots of plants mean they grow faster because they are right at the plants tips. This means for the plants they don’t need a huge root system but instead can concentrate on growth upside. The growth rates are generally double that of soil based plants.
Now the system being used at the restaurant is called Tower Gardens and come in at a hefty $499 a unit. Ok for commercial and restaurant growers but maybe a bit hefty for most households unless mix cropping. The system however uses aeroponics which instead of soaking the roots in water it sprays a mist at the plant roots. This gives high yields and extremly intense flavours for vegetables with very little waste.
SNAP Hydroponics is something that has been developed in the Philippines for sustainable living and livelihood. What makes it a little unique compared to most hydroponics setups is that it doesn’t need any electricity which is a huge difference in money cost for production. Obviously the Philippines climate is a country receiving 12 hours of sunshine as well as constant heat which helps. But the SNAP solution which is mixed with water is a cheap solution for plant production that is initially designed for leafy plants. Maybe this is the first step towards developing different solutions for different types of plant to get maximum growth while still being organic. But for me living out in the Philippines with these lightweight boxes how many would you fit on a shipping container home roof? The boxes themselves come from discarded fruit boxes normally carrying grapes which means your recycling a product that is normally scrapped. How to make a SNAP hydroponics setup from a fruit box can be found here.
In recent months we have seen mango’s stolen, tomatoes and even potatoes dug up. But it got me thinking about the shipping container house communities and the fact these setups would fit neatly on the roof of shipping containers. They do need a bit of rain cover to stop it interfering with the mix of chemicals in the SNAP solution at the same time there is nothing wrong with collecting rainwater to use in the SNAP Hydroponics mixture. Very simple system that can be upscaled to suit anyone’s needs and an ideal starting point for someone wanting to grow at least some of their own food.
Now my big question is this has anyone discovered the mix for SNAP solution? Everyone wants to sell me some but at the same time the formula is going to be a lot more simple than is being made out. Any ideas?
(SNAP Hydroponics uses no electric as it doesn’t need water circulation which makes it more practical for many)
SNAP Hydroponics Ideal For Off Grid Living (No Electric Needed)
A system developed in the Philippines which involves nutrient solutions seems to have answered one of the big issues here in the Philippines but also makes it an ideal grow method for container housing or other off grid homes, it doesn’t need electric! Basically the method involves a polystyrene tray that has a lid (often found for food delivery) that you cut circular holes for polystyrene cups to use as plant pots in it before lining the bottom of the tray with plastic sheet to waterproof it. In goes the cheap solution mixed with water and pretty much that’s the pots near enough setup except for a bit of medium to secure the plants but also means that once you have established your tray garden you can literally pick your food from the leaves for lettuce and other crops. I am sure the formula can be adapted for other types of plants as well.
Now bearing in mind a shipping container home has a large roof area which is not only flat but suffers with heat build up I am sure this may be a solution to help drop that temperature down while keeping your greens out of the reach of many garden pests. Adding a ladder to the side of your container means your plants are happily growing away on your roof and the fact they are self watering from the solution your not constantly worrying they dry out continuously. The other obvious benefits of SNAP Hydroponics is it can be up scaled or downscaled for winter or personal needs. I am currently researching it more here and going to put an order in for the SNAP solution so I can trial it but it does appear to be a very cheap option of growing greens, which are often overpriced in the Philippines.
Activity on the Shipping containers is a bit slow right now so decided to start looking at other containers that are relevant. This one for example is relevant in two ways as its part of green living as well as housed in a container. For which I am going to start looking to add in more green fingered activities on the blog as well to help expand things out a bit from construction and design of shipping containers into a broad way of container living.
This is the McMurdo Ice Station in Antarctica which is a science and support facility. Everything that is going into the South Pole will pass through McMurdo making it a bit of a mailbox for the most remotest place on the planet. During peak season you will find around 1500 but when the skies turn dark its left with a skeleton staff of support crew and engineers.
What has all this got to do with Hydroponics your probably wondering, well in that container building under a rather white sky you will find a lot of plant life in one of the harshest living condition environments in the world. It all began with someone wanting fresh food over tinned and frozen goods. Initially seeking to start with tomatoes wasn’t long until a pilot was bringing in seeds and a small idea became a big reality. Ok may not seem so big here! but if your used to living on tinned and frozen food having some fresh produce makes a huge difference in life when away for months without it.
Add to that though the bleak surroundings and the dry environment of the Antarctic the hydroponics garden doesn’t just become a food source but a place of life and an injection of light as well as humidifiers giving a more “at home in the garden” feel. It no so surprise that people would want to spend spare time in there with months of living in the Antarctic.
The interesting thing here though is to add most of what you see is more like a scrapheap challenge than some scientific adventure. Reason being is bringing stuff to the remote station is often expensive and infrequent. Budgets may be allowed for projects on going but not for the vegetables for your plate. Everything has been pretty much been salvaged where possible but lucky they have the right people in the right place to pull it off. A hot bed of grey matter working away to get it up and running. No scientific experiment going on just people who love good food and willing to put a bit of effort in to make it happen.
Photo credits owner unknown.