A few years ago I had the idea of taking leftover Speedling trays and using them to float lettuces in a cascading pan system, with lights mounted underneath the pans. The intention was to put this system inside of a shipping container. The general idea is not new. There are several companies creating super fancy systems this way, but we felt like we didn’t need to spend a fortune dong this. Perhaps the only unique part of our system is the idea of using the Speedling trays and the cascading pan system to fit their use. When we took over the farm at River Bluffs, we discovered an unused van body about the size of a half shipping container. We knew exactly what to do with it.
You see, the bad thing about lettuces and salad greens is that they don’t do well in the heat, and, they slow down significantly when it gets very cold – even when using season extension structures like low and high tunnels. The one thing we always want to be able to offer our CSA clients is an awesome salad mix. Our base salad green consists of four different salanova lettuces – 2 reds and 2 greens. If we can maintain that base lettuce, we can season it, so to speak, with summer amaranths, buckwheats, and edible flowers; myriad cool season greens like beet greens, mustards, peas shoots, baby spinach, and microgreens, etc; and finally the awesome winter greens such as kales, spinach, rainbow chard, tatsoi and the other asian greens that are so cold hardy.
So, the only way to ensure the year ’round base lettuce is available is by using a hydroponic system like the one we’ve devised. The good thing about lettuces is that they grow very well hydroponically and, unlike tomatoes, still taste pretty much the same as field grown. By the way, we do grow a lot of our base lettuce outside simultaneously when the temperatures are right as that gives us great production and serves as a back up in case of a crop failure – something we’ve not experience….yet!
Thanks everyone. We will be bringing you more information of the Salad Mix/Microgreens production unit progress soon. Who knows, we may be expanding into a larger shipping container later this year.