News Section: Food and Dining
Hydroponically Grown Strawberries are an Earth Friendly Solution to Traditional Farming at Hydro Taste
MYAKKA CITY -- Every day is Earth Day at the Hydro Taste farm, which is most evident after seeing and tasting hydroponically grown strawberries – 60,000 strawberry plants on one-half acre.
| Chester Bullock, farm owner, said he has to travel often to help people in other countries, and in the U.S., develop hydroponic farms.
Chester Bullock has owned the hydroponic farm for eight years, and he, also, invented the hydro-stacker system for people to try out at home and they are.
“We do Earth Day, every day,” he said. “We save a lot of water by conserving water. It’s a major concern no matter where you go - water.”
After developing hydroponic farms in over 31 countries, Bullock said everyone wants to conserve water, and it’s a big factor for people all over the world when they are moving into hydroponic farming for their sustenance in environments with limited water.
“We grow plants in vermiculite and pearlite in a vertical growing unit and we use no soil,” he said. “We are soil-less growers. We grow more because of the way we do it.”
Instead the farm uses a micro-feed system that drips into each plant the exact amount needed three times a day, and, thus, water is not wasted. The farm uses only 5 percent of the conventional water usage.
When you step into the farm, thousands of plants grow upwards in layered containers, which allow pickers to cut off strawberries with scissors or other vegetables and fruits.
“We are a no bending, no kneeling and every unit rotates 360 degrees, kind of farm,” Bullock added.
But in one of the toughest growing seasons in years, why is Bullock about to bring in his record breaking year for strawberries? Other local Florida farms had grave trouble getting their strawberries to grow and plowed over the plants to move on to tomatoes or another plant they hope to profit on.
| These hydroponically grown strawberries are near perfect and grown without soil, using very little water and no chemical sprays.
“The biggest problem for ground farmers was that early in the season the temp of water stayed high and the ground stayed hot,” he said. “Then the temperature changed drastically in the other direction, as the ground was trying to freeze. Their strawberry plants had trouble surviving, and we didn’t because we grow in an insulated container.”
He added that the weather flip on the farmers didn’t affect their plants, since everything is grown in insulated containers.
So, while local ground farmers moved on to the next season, Hydro Taste expects to have strawberries through June and to finalize their strawberry season having grown 300,000 pounds of that sweety-tart berry that folks crave.
On the Hydro Taste Web site it state that the popular name “strawberry” is derived from early market packaging 500 years ago on the streets of London. The plants, grown in mulch with straw, were the sold on the streets by children who threaded the ripe berries on a mulch straw – hence, strawberry.
Another factor that makes this farm’s strawberries quite the pick, outside of being one of the few with strawberries, is that they are not sprayed for insects.
Since, there is no dirt, there are no ground bugs, and natural ways of dealing with the flying bugs help to keep the plants in tip-top shape.
Bullock explained that by using ladybugs, black wasps and other bugs, the farm doesn’t have to spray harmful chemicals in the air. Another “green” growing techniques for hydroponic plants.
| Looking ahead, Bullock said people can expect to pick all things green for the summer at Hydro Taste.
He comes from a 150 year old farming family and you better believe that he has no interest in returning to “back breaking” traditional farming that he did with 10 other brothers growing up in Missouri.
But is Bullock making money on the farm, living off the land?
With 2,000 to 3,000 pickers a week, 14 employees, and a hydro-stacking system to sell; yes, Bullock is making money and expanding.
“I am betting that by next year tomatoes are going to be priced at $5 each,” he said. “People are going back to growing in their backyard. When I was growing up people had ‘Victory Gardens’ in their backyards, and now more and more people are doing that because of their hard hit budget.”
For $139, people can have their own hydroponic garden that can grow 20 plants in 14 square inches of space.
“Our hydro-stacking sales have increased 160 percent,” Bullock said, checking row after row of strawberry plants at his farm. “You can grow anything in there. The buzz words for people these days are ‘pure and natural.’”
Erica Newport is a daily reporter for The Bradenton Times. She covers art, culture and community. If you have a story that might interest Erica, please e-mail her using email@example.com address. She also takes your questions related to our weekly theme days and provides advice and opinions for our readers.
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