Crops for Daily Harvesting

tilakNovember 14, 2009

Hi All,

Please excuse me if my questions seem stupid as I am not personally someone with "green fingers" although I'd love to be more green. The questions I pose here are to see if Hydroponics could provide a total or partial solution and if so what resources are available to help us establish initially a pilot project.

I'm looking to increase the quality and reduce the costs of fresh, mainly herbs & salad items that we need to get as supplies to our small hotel.

I felt that Hydroponics seemed an obvious solution - as we have a stable year round temperature around 30C - daily 12 hours sunlight as we're on the equator - all our water is made through reverse osmosis being an island.

Currently we ship all fruit & vegetables by air and then transport to us using chiller boxes - this is obviously an expensive process and if we can reduce any part of our requirement by growing it ourselves that would be a very attractive prospect.

So the questions are;

Would Hydoponics as it commonly exists be considered Organic or Inorganic?

Is it possible to have a more "organic friendly" option that is still controllable and predicatable?

What kind of fast growing items can we do in this environment?

Is it feasible to plan the planting - so that we can harvest some or all on a daily/weekly basis?

any feedback is eagerly awaited and will be gratefully received

best regards to all

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greystoke(South Africa(11))

Hi tilak
Welcome to the forum. Please consider yourself at home, and ask whatever you wish. There are no stupid questions on this forum.
Let me try to answer your questions:
Q: Would Hydoponics as it commonly exists be considered Organic or Inorganic?
A: It is mainly inorganic, through the use of base chemicals for nutrients. There are - however - a number of members who are developping an organic option by using the "tea" of compost and organic fertilizer. Some of which are very successful.
Q: Is it possible to have a more "organic friendly" option that is still controllable and predicatable?
A: Yes, but it appears to be less controlled and less predictable. I have done some work with wood ash and urine, but I wouldn't consider myself an expert.
Q: What kind of fast growing items can we do in this environment?
A: Tomatoes, Lettuce, Chinese brassica, Zucchini . . . too many to mention. Let us know what you like to grow.
Q: Is it feasible to plan the planting - so that we can harvest some or all on a daily/weekly basis?
A: I suppose the answer is "Yes", because in your climate, this must be just a matter of time organisation.

I hope this helps for a start. Let us know what other questions you need answered.


    Bookmark   November 14, 2009 at 8:31AM
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Hi Greystoke & "Freemangreens",

Thank you very much for your prompt and concise answers - much appreciated. Seems that it is definitely something to explore.

In terms of what we want to grow - I think the most attractive would be as many Salad Vegetables and Herbs as possible - these are things that in my experience are comparatively very expensive to ship and result in quite high wastage.

Re the Organic question - how do the "foodies" react to produce grown using Hydroponics - is it considered a "bad gm type of thing" or is it the case that "someone who is comfortable with eating vegetables grown inorganically would be comfortable with eating hydroponic produce?

Do you or anyone on this forum know of suppliers & consultants (with a good reputation) who work in Hydroponics that we could talk to. Preferably with a presence in Asia. I am going to Thailand next week and if anyone knows of contacts in Thailand that would be really great.

thanks again


    Bookmark   November 15, 2009 at 2:41AM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

Most people who buy their veggies in supermarkets know that a lot of it is grown hydroponically, and they don't seem to care. However, for hotel guests this maybe different. Don't know.

Don't know anyone that lives near to you that you would be able to consult with. If you've never done anything like this before, and can't rely on help or advice, then you'll have to go through a learning curve first.
It would however help if you know your chemistry, or if you can get the assistance of a chemist.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2009 at 4:58AM
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Hi tilak,
Setting-up a small hydroponic farm (or even a pilot backyard project) at an island where everything needs to get shipped-in (including fresh water) isn't exactly an easy task. As if suppling a (small) hotel in daily fresh vegetables and herbs wasn't 'delicate' enough - as you really need to assure the supply. Especially if you are totally inexperienced in growing vegetables and/or in hydroponics. Which I assume from what you were telling in your introduction.

You need to decide on wether building (having it build), - or buying your setup (and net- or greenhouse as well). You'll need to explore local (and national) availability of anything you need in material or supply for either venture. There are different systems and types of setups as well, - obviously you also need to chose which type suits your location and needs and which is the easiest to run- in your case.

Furthermore you need to know what kind of herbs, lettuce and vegetables, - in fact which varieties, are equally suited for your needs and your location and climatic conditions.

Hydroponically grown lettuce and herbs are available in some supermarkets in Thailand and apparently well accepted and sold (as well by nationals as by expatriates). How this applies to rather cosmopolite and international customers of any tropical island's hotel is a different matter, though. Actually, you always have the choice of promoting the way you grow your veggies, - or alternatively not tell it explicitly.

In fact the meaning of how "organic" differently grown vegetables really are, is rather complicated. To fully understand it, there is a need of extensive explanation about what is supposed to be and what is actually organic and what is not - and finally what is actually inorganic in the equation. Though, consumers mostly are not really interested in complicated explanations of facts, but want rather simple and easily understandable answers.

Firstly, there are no inorganic vegetables or vegetable that aren't organic. Any vegetable or plant grows organically, as there isn't any other way yet to get plants to grow. Growing plants inorganically (as far as I know of, anyways) is impossible. All plants are made of cells and organic matter, that is what they always were and are - there are no inorganic plants, except fake-ones. On the other hand, plant nutrition itself is ALWAYS inorganic - there is not a single plant on this planet that is able to directly feed or nourish from a diet of organic matter of any kind. Organic matter has firstly to be broken down to a molecular level that is inorganic per definition, before it can be absorbed and used by plants. But who wants to listen to these actually true- but somewhat "scientifically wired" explanations?!

With so called "organic food" or "organically grown vegetables" there was and is organic matter in the first place. It then undergoes "bacterial breakdown" into elements. For example: ammonia gets transformed to nitrite, which gets transformed to nitrate eventually, which can be absorbed. In fact only a range of dissolved salts (actually dissolved in water) can be absorbed through osmosis - and they truly are inorganic matter, practically and also per scientific definition!

And on the other side, there is what is commonly called "nutrients" (for hydroponics), which are (exactly the same but) readily available salts, obviously already diluted in water. Those are industrially produced, though - and there is no bacterial or natural breakdown that took place prior (as it is not needed) to this state. Perhaps it took place prior in case of some of the minerals that are used, - but that probably was billions of years ago. It's certainly not a explanation you would give to your customers when serving a a newly created hydroponically grown spicy herb-salad, - or would you??! ;-)

I guess that the main problem here is, that people who come up with the terms in use - and defend either concepts and the ideologies that goes with it, haven't necessarily figured out the actual basics of plant nutrition. On the other hand, people who have basically figured out how it really works and have understood the meaning of "organic" vs. inorganic in this context, can't figure out how to put all this in a slogan or easy terms that would please and convince the customer. ;-)

About consulting, which I warmly recommend before taking any decisive steps:

Could you be more precise about the location of your project, - because in your profile it says Sri Lanka, while you tell that you are looking for a contact in Thailand?

I am located in Norther Thailand and I am an independent researcher and designer in hydroponics. Most importantly I am quite familiar with the local situation. In fact, I am building low-tech and low cost setups and I am also doing research in nutrient solutions. And as a matter of facts, I am able to producing a range of nutrient solutions from non-expensive basic raw materials all available in Thailand. I would be pleased to give you a more extensive overview about how it all works - in fact tell you in detail what you need to know and to consider BEFORE going into any venture of the kind. For more discretion, please contact me at ** - I'll provide my phone number (in Thailand) then.

PS: this is not a commercial offer, - it is purely pro bono. But it goes without saying that it is limited in time and space - and only as far as it goes without costs and expenses from my side.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 12:06AM
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Hi Greystoke & Lucas

Thanks very much for your continued feedback and advice it is much appreciated.

Re the questions posed by Lucas

I am from Sri Lanka - but our project is a small 7.5 hectare island in the south of the Maldives (0.5 degrees North). Thailand was mentioned purely because, it is relatively close to us, I had heard that there were Hydroponic farms there and I actually have to go there next week.

As I said everything is imported and the water (200 Tons/day) is made on island using Reverse Osmosis.

We do not intend jumping into this - first we want to understand the possibilities of using Hydroponics for even a small part of our requirement - identify the resources, funding etc required and then decide whether we want to go ahead with initially a small pilot project.

I will be one of the people trying to get the above info and if we decide to go ahead we will get the personnel required.

Lucas - thank you very much for your clear explanation and your offer - I will email you shortly

thanks again


    Bookmark   November 17, 2009 at 12:29AM
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You're welcome Tilak!
I've already got your email and will reply to it afterwards.

I am sure we can workout something!

PS: there are hydroponic farms spread all over Thailand and some can even be visited as part of guided tours. Best is probably to get local information "on the fly"... Unfortunately I can't give any suggestions, as you hit some places at the opposite direction of my location - and where I have little local knowledge!
Good luck with that!

Cheers and have a nice trip!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2009 at 1:57AM
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