When you hear about a farm that supplies all-natural, sustainable produce, using 90% less water and 90% less land, one that utilizes the most advanced vertical aeroponic technology on earth, you surely would not guess it would be an Amish farm. Yet in Topeka, Indiana, you cannot get produce that is more local, fresh, healthy, and sustainable — even in the middle of an Indiana blizzard — like you can get at Sunrise Hydroponics, an Amish farm.
Sunrise Hydroponics is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Marlin and Loretta Miller on their rural farm in Topeka. I have had the privilege of working with the Amish community for more than half a decade, and have come to learn that, while their lives seem simple to many outsiders, their homes, farms, and businesses are highly innovative. The Amish utilize cutting-edge and creative forms of technology to improve their lives, while still falling within the guidelines of their belief system.
Marlin and Loretta’s farm operates using a small amount of off-grid electricity to run the aeroponic Tower Garden® towers and a wood-burning furnace to heat the greenhouse in the winter. The greenhouse itself is Amish-made, with simple hand crank roof vents and roll-up sides for natural ventilation. Although some may not consider the protected greenhouse structure to be state-of-the-art, like we see with many of our vertical aeroponic tower farms, it has proven to be both cost effective and highly efficient as people manually control the simplified environmental mechanisms.
The importance of vertical aeroponic farms like Sunrise Hydroponics is accentuated when one realizes the water shortage and other issues that Indiana is struggling with. Indiana’s conventional-based agriculture system has led to a looming water crisis, heavy pesticide and petrochemical fertilizer use (which contaminates both surface and ground water), and the use of GMO crops. Additionally, the state imports almost all of its fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
While Purdue and other universities spend millions of dollars trying to find solutions for the state’s agriculture challenges, the Future of Growing is already here. Who would have guessed that the Amish are leading the way?
Sunrise Hydroponics, currently in its third year of operation, is producing “beyond organic” produce for Marlin and Loretta’s family, a farmers market, their produce stand, and local restaurants. This groundbreaking, sustainable technology features live plants which are harvested daily. The USDA claims that up to 40% of nutrition is lost from fresh-cut produce by the time it is purchased at a local grocery store. Living produce at Sunrise Hydroponics, harvested with the roots intact, not only maintains amazing freshness, but also holds on to the extraordinary nutrition the plant had at the point of harvest!
Sunrise Hydroponics produces a wide range of crops, including lettuces, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries, year-round. When the farm started three years ago, Marlin and his customers immediately noticed the incredible flavor, vibrant colors, and aroma that came from the highly nutritious plants grown from Future Growing’s® proprietary aeroponic plant food.
Surprisingly, so did Marlin’s chickens! Marlin began feeding his chickens waste plant material from the greenhouse and immediately noticed that the chickens’ egg yolks changed from yellow to orange, the egg shells became thicker, and the eggs had improved flavor. That is a real testament to the nutritional quality of aeroponic Tower Garden® produce!
This local farm will forever change the way folks in Indiana think about their food and what is possible for their state with Future Growing® technology.
In the coming decade, we look forward to helping Indiana heal the environment and regain its food security and independence!
Sunrise Hydroponics is currently located at the South Bend Farmers Market every Saturday morning. Buy local produce, and speak with Marlin or Loretta to sign up for hydroponic class and a greenhouse tour. The farmers market is at 1105 Northside Blvd., South Bend, IN 46615.
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC