Subscribe

Is it possible to grow spinach locally and year-round?

It may be possible to satisfy a year-round craving for spinach with hydroponics technology.

  • close
    A farmer holds a sample of his spinach crop in King George County, Va.
    P. Kevin Morley/Richmond-Times Dispatch/AP/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

BrightFarms greenhouse in Pennsylvania produces around 34,000 kilograms (75,000 pounds) of nutrient-rich spinach per year—even in the thick of winter—while also conserving land, water, and fossil fuels. In this episode of How Does it Growviewers get a glimpse of the greenhouse where, through hydroponics, BrightFarms creates an environment conducive to growing spinach year-round.

Plants at BrightFarms are grown in nutrient-enriched water instead of soil. The greenhouse, as big as a football field, is filled with around 151,000 liters (40,000 gallons) of water. The water is re-circulated through the pond, which allows this greenhouse to use 80 percent less water than conventional agriculture.

The plants sit on long, narrow boards floating on the pond with their roots released into the water through small slits in the boards. With the help of computer technology, head farmer Jason Jackson can control heat, moisture, and daylight settings of the greenhouse, giving him an advantage over conventional farmers who would not be able to manipulate such naturally occurring conditions.

However, hydroponics is not without challenges. In the absence of soil as a buffer between the tender roots and potent fertilizer, Jackson must achieve precision in the mix of nutrients given to the plants.

“If I don’t get it quite right, I could potentially burn the plants,” Jackson says, “At which point we would have to drain the pond.”

Spinach is also particularly vulnerable to a fungus called Pythium, which spreads by swimming. Growing spinach through hydroponics, as opposed to soil, can create the perfect environment for the Pythium to proliferate in. But instead of relying on harsh chemicals like fungicide to keep Pythium in check, Jackson tackles the problem by also growing lettuce along with the spinach, which can deter the growth of the fungus.

Satisfying that spinach craving in the middle of winter while striving to keep food miles low may present a dilemma, but perhaps hydroponic spinach can offer an environmentally agreeable solution worth exploring. To learn more, check out the hydroponic spinach episode of How Does it Grow? here.

This article appeared first in Food Tank.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK