space plants, water depth, nutrient quality, aerated roots, co2

pengyouApril 5, 2013

My dream for 30 years was to have a small farm and have a "real" job that would let me work at home to earn some cash, while I work on the farm to create a more healthy and carbon friendly life. I am preparing now to find work online - hope that will come true. I am also preparing now for my dream farm :)

The first obstacle is the purchase of land. Land is getting more and more expensive. Quality land is pretty outrageous now, but if I can rely on hydroponics then the main criteria is only water. Indoor hydroponics actually can use less water than an outdoor crop because there is less evaporation and run off. Also, one of the benefits that I have heard about from hydroponics is that multiple crops can be grown each year and crops do not have to be rotated. I have also heard that plants can be placed a little closer together than they would in the field. All of these things are of interest to me because one of the things I would like to do is raise enough sugar beets to make enough alcohol to supply my energy needs. I have heard people say that it is possible to get 1,000 gallows of ethanol from an acre of sugar beets. 2 acres would be a nice goal...but if I can plant 5 crops a year that means I need 1/5 of the space..and if I can place the beets 20% closer that means that I can further reduce the space needed by 20%...I have read posts saying that people's root crops were much larger than normal in hp...and if I develop a system to stack the trays they grow in, so that there are 4 layers of plants, all of a sudden I can get a tremendous amount of sugar beets from a small area, which means that I can buy a much smaller piece of land to begin with.

Is my thinking on track? Or do I have to go back to Kansas and find Toto again?

This post was edited by pengyou on Fri, Apr 5, 13 at 10:20

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There is nothing wrong with your thinking (though some of it may be liberal) but if you grow indoors, you need to consider the cost of lighting and the cost of a roof over your area. land itself is relatively inexpensive compared to a building on the same piece of dirt.
Say you can grow 4 crops a year. ( i don't know the life cycle of a beet, but you have to allow for some level of time between them unless you're growing commercially) well that offsets your 20% space savings so you need 1/5 of an acre to grow your beats on. that is still approximately 9000 square feet. Even if you cut that by three with stacking trays you're still looking at a 3000 sq ft building. plus ample lighting for the whole kit and kaboodle. For the price of a 3000 sq ft building and all the necessary lighting, you might be better off finding a larger piece of land and settling on maybe two crops per year growing them outdoors.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 10:53AM
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Where are you located? Do sugar beets grow in your climate? On a practical and commercial level, it's easiest to grow something that already grows well where you live. For example, I really like Asian cabbages, but I have so many flea beetles and temperature swings that growing them outdoors is just about impossible. It's easier to grow a tomato, sell it, then use the money to buy cabbage that's been trucked in from California. It may be the same for you with sugar beets - something else would make more money.

There are also a ton of other crops that have energy potential. The University of Illinois is working on switchgrass as a bio mass fuel, although that's not a practical hydro crop. Algae is another potential energy crop that would be more suitable to a hydro-type setup.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 12:23PM
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Here in South Florida we use Shade House instead of Green Houses. Shade House can be constructed fairly inexpensive and Covered with Plastic in case of a rare Freeze. Tight Shade House also act as a Screen room barrier from insects and a way of keeping Lady Bugs contained. This is great for the Granola Nuts who prefer Orgasmic grown Tree Hugger Food.

One of the Problem with trying to make a living with Hydro is Marketing the Goods. However you might check with local Ethic food stores for ideas of native Plant food that might be hard to find. You might have the problem of too much demand, which isn't a bad problem.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 4:05PM
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