Tag Archives: aeroponics

Chef Emeril Lagasse Promotes Farm-To-Table, Visits a Future Growing Farm in Florida

Chef Emeril Lagasse became popular with TV audiences soon after “Emeril Live” began airing on the Food Network in 1997. The show was certainly popular in our family, partly because of Emeril’s humorous, down-to-earth personality, and partly because of his recipes, which the guys in my family have occasionally downloaded and attempted to re-create.

Besides his TV career, Emeril devotes his time and resources to the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, a purpose close to my own heart, which is dedicated to mentoring and enabling young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances

Emeril is also an ardent supporter of the farm-to-table movement, which is not surprising. To use his words: “It ain’t rocket science.” Most of us have sampled “fresh” organic produce in the supermarket, only to discover it’s anything but fresh after being trucked thousands of miles and put in storage.

Katherine Grandey harvests locally grown basil at The GreenHouse

Katherine Grandey harvests locally grown basil at The GreenHouse in central Florida. (Click photo to enlarge)

That’s why we at Future Growing® believe “locally sourced” is an essential ingredient of “beyond organic” foods, and we noted with interest a recent “teaser” clip for an episode of “Emeril’s Florida”. “Farm-to-table is our focus,” Emeril proclaimed in the voiceover, so we made sure not to miss the episode when it aired on Feb 16.

Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, Orlando, FL

In the second segment of the show, Emeril visited his restaurant, “Tchoup Chop”, which he launched near Universal Orlando in 2002. It turns out that The GreenHouse—a Future Growing® Tower Garden® installation operated by Katherine Grandey in central Florida—is a supplier of fresh greens for Tchoup Chop, and provides “some of the best produce in the area,” according to Emeril.

We at Future Growing® recognize the quality and volume of pesticide-free crops that The GreenHouse supplies to a number of Central Florida’s finest restaurants. It was our pleasure to get Katherine started in aeroponic farming, but we believe her success is due to her forward-thinking business strategy, as well as her focus on customer service.

When Emeril visited The GreenHouse, he noted that seasonal availability is not an issue for the operation, and marveled at the output of the relatively small installation (135,000 plants per year). During the episode, he explained that this type of production is made possible by the unique vertical design of the aeroponic Tower Gardens®.

Emeril Lagasse compliments Katherine Grandey on the quality of the food at The GreenHouse.

Chef Emeril Lagasse compliments Katherine Grandey on the quality of the food The GreenHouse is producing for area restaurants. (Click photo to enlarge)

“In many cases, she [Katherine] can turn crops around in two to three weeks. That’s pretty amazing,” Emeril commented. “She doesn’t use any pesticides or herbicides”. Importantly, Emeril pointed out how flavorful and delicious all the greens he tasted were. At the end of the segment, Emeril thanked Katherine for her time, and grinned as he told her: “I’m gonna have to take some of this with me.”

Emeril Lagasse samples mustard greens at The GreenHouse.

Chef Emeril Lagasse and Katherine Grandey sample mustard greens at The GreenHouse.
(Click photo to enlarge)

We’re grateful to Chef Emeril and other chefs across the country who have helped “farm-to-table” become mainstream. In combination with Future Growing’s® aeroponic technology, local sourcing has become a sustainable, “beyond organic” way to supply the nutritional needs of our planet. And to think all this can be done on 90% less land, using 90% less water, and using no harmful chemicals or herbicides—that is revolutionary!

For photos and additional information about The GreenHouse, click here.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


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3 Organic Sprays That Kill Almost Every Garden Pest

Chemical free aeroponic produce.

Locally grown, chemical-free, aeroponic produce can be fun, clean, simple, and easy. (Click photo to enlarge)

As we leave this cold, bitter winter and move into spring, our outdoor Tower Garden® farmers begin preparing for the spring rush that is just around the corner.

Did you know that erratic weather patterns tend to create severe pest problems during the growing season when the natural balance of life is disturbed? With this in mind, I encourage you to be well prepared in advance this spring.

Below are three of my favorite organic sprays that have given our growers tremendous success — even in a place like Florida — during the warmer summer months! If you are a home gardener, you can use the same formulas to easily and safely control pests right in your own back yard!

Organic spray for many insects like aphids, mites, thrips, whiteflies, and other small insects:

This formula even serves as a mild fungicide. Mixing instructions follow:

  • Horticultural grade insecticidal soap, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water
  • Horticultural grade neem oil, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water
    • Mix everything well, and then continue to shake periodically during use.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally — soak them — and be sure to wet the undersides of leaves where the insects feed.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.

Organic spray for all worms or caterpillars:

  • 1 tablespoon per gallon of water (or label rate) of Bacillus thuringiensis (brand name Thuricide)
    • Follow instructions on label, and mix well.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally — soak them — and be sure to wet the undersides of leaves where worms or caterpillars feed.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.
  • Apply this formula when you first start seeing worms in the areas they are feeding.

Organic spray for leaf fungus like powdery mildew:

  • Potassium bicarbonate, or Mil-Stop brand. NOTE: Never use baking soda or sodium bicarbonate. Apply as follows:
  • Follow instructions on label, and mix well.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally. Soak the plants well.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.
  • Apply this formula once a week during light fungus season, or twice a week during heavy fungus season.

Whether you are a commercial farmer or a home gardener, these safe organic sprays are tried and true. Future Growing’s commercial farmers can find these and many other fine products at the Future Growing® Growers Store. For home gardeners, please visit the Tower Garden® Store and choose “Natural Pest Control” from the Products menu at the left side.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


How Tower Gardens Are Teaching Kids The Future Of Growing In Hawaii

Since 2006, Future Growing® has been partnering with the nation’s leading schools to create healthier lunches and hands-on science lessons. It’s gratifying to see Future Growing’s® aeroponic technology being welcomed by education, because we know firsthand how students of all ages benefit from learning to grow food in their schools. These kids will soon be the decision-makers of the 21st century, and will be faced with serious choices on managing our future supplies and quality of water, air, and soil.

Tim Blank visits the Tower Garden® farm at ’Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Future Growing LLC founder and CEO Tim Blank is pictured here with school children at Hawaii’s Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership, on the campus of Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Click photo to enlarge)

On my recent trip to the Hawaiian Islands, I had a chance to share in and to implement the future of sustainable vertical aeroponic food production.

Wherever I travel in the U.S. today, it is an area where our fresh water supply is limited or almost gone, the water is contaminated, and land is expensive. Everyone is simply running out of space for agriculture, and Hawaii is no exception.

For over 1,000 years the Hawaiian people produced enough food to support an estimated population of 1 million. Today, 85 to 90 percent of Hawaii’s food is imported.

Mike Gabbard presents award to Future Growing founder and CEO Tim Blank.

Pictured here is Hawaii state senator Mike Gabbard presenting an award to Future Growing founder and CEO Tim Blank in Honululu on Feb. 10, 2014.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Our work in Hawaii has been so successful that during a state agriculture event, state senator Mike Gabbard presented an award to Tim Blank:

“The Senate of the State of Hawaii hereby honors and commends Tim Blank. Mahalo for putting your heart and soul into inspiring healthy living. You are instilling a new sense of belief and pride in our ability to grow our own nutritious food, which offers hope to people everywhere in the world. We wish you many more years of happiness and success in all your future endeavors.”

I was truly humbled by the thoughtful kindness provided to me by the Hawaiian people.

Tim Blank visits the Tower Garden® farm at ’Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii.

During Tim Blank’s visit to ’Iolani School in Honolulu, students pedal a stationary bike that operates a blender used to make fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Even more exciting was my trip to Hawaii’s Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership on the campus of Iolani School in Honolulu. Here I got to spend time with our nation’s youngest future leaders. During my tour of the school, it seemed that Tower Gardens® popped up around every corner and the school had engaged in radical growing behavior!

I was invited to share in a traditional Hawaiian Tower Garden® lunch, but it was anything but traditional.
Kids were harvesting their own salads and vegetables. Another group was pedaling a stationary bike that powered a blender making green smoothies! Wow! These kids are living beyond any green standards I have ever seen.

Tim Blank visits the Tower Garden® farm at ’Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Tim Blank, founder and CEO of Future Growing LLC, holds the class mascot, “Phytonutrient”, at ’Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Click photo to enlarge)

It got even better than that. During lunch, our mascot “Phytonutrient” (pictured at right, with Tim) was teaching all the children the importance of the colors in food, or phytonutrients, which only come from fresh fruits and vegetables. Phytonutrients heal and protect our bodies from disease, they explained. At this school, science truly demonstrates that children who grow their own fruits and vegetables certantly eat more fruits and vegetables!

The Tower Garden® program has been so successful at the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership that we are now working to convert the school’s existing green roof into a massive Future Growing® aeroponic Tower Garden® farm. This will eliminate the need for ANY fresh fruits and vegetables to be shipped to the school!

Once installed, this farm will supply all-natural, sustainable produce, using 90 percent less water and 90 percent less land, and no chemicals. The produce will also be hyper-local: it will literally be walked from the roof to the school’s cafeteria, almost completely eliminating the carbon footprint of the school’s food supply chain.

Imagine a school that graduates locavores, carbon footprint experts, and professional hydroponic farmers. Keep up the great work and innovation, Hawaii!

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


Integrated Pest Management

This week, I’m excited to share some of the secret tips used by our professional growers for successful organic pest control.

Ladybugs

Ladybugs. (Click photo to enlarge)

For those of you who are lucky enough to call Central Florida your home like myself, you know that this part of the country can be a growing paradise — and during some seasons, an insect nightmare. Although Florida has an incredible climate, the high nighttime temperatures and humidity in the hot season create the perfect home for almost every vegetable pest imaginable.

Twenty years ago, I began my tenure at Walt Disney World Company at The Land at EPCOT Center. The Land is a two-acre, protected growing biome, where we grew over 100 food crops from around the world using almost hydroponics technique imaginable. Because we grew such a diversity of crops year-round at this facility in Florida, pests and diseases could become a huge problem almost overnight! At The Land, we controlled harmful diseases and insect pests by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

The Land at Epcot

“The Land” at Epcot Center. (Click photo to enlarge)

IPM is the practice of using a combination of organic-type sprays, beneficial insects to eat the bad bugs, farm cleanliness measures, and good plant training practices which allow the sun and air to circulate in the plant canopy. Why would Disney utilize IPM 20 years ago, when organic food was hardly known by the average consumer and chemical pesticide use was commonplace? The answer: The thousands of guests coming through the middle of the Epcot greenhouse every day on a boat ride made it technically impossible to spray harmful chemicals in the greenhouse.

There is an old saying: “Necessity breeds innovation”. In this case, necessity created 30 years of groundbreaking research and successful application of natural pest control practices in the world’s largest hydroponic showcase facility. Much of the IPM research was done in conjunction with the University of Florida, and can be found in many scientific publications.

Bell Book and Candle

Bell Book and Candle Rooftop Farm – New York (Click photo to enlarge)

I share this story because it inspired me to teach every new Future Growing vertical farmer to do the same. Our clients produce healthy, local, chemical-free food for consumers — and for every plant that is purchased from one of our growers, another chemically-treated plant is not purchased from “Big Agriculture”. This is a perfect example of how the world’s problems can be reduced or eliminated when each consumer makes a conscious choice to live a greener life!

There is a science behind the use of beneficial insects. An entomology background is generally required to identify the genus and species of the problem insect. Once the pest problem has been properly identified, the specific genus and species of a predatory insect must be purchased and released at specific intervals for maximum kill rate. Some outdoor farms that have a wide variety of crops, such as Bell Book and Candle, create a natural environment for many of the good bugs to reproduce and create their own natural ecosystem.


IPM Blog 5

The second option is to use organic sprays on a regular basis during the heavy pest season. Below are three of my favorite organic sprays that have given our growers tremendous success, even in a place like Florida during the warmer months! If you are a home gardener, you can use the same formula to easily and safely control pests right in your own back yard!

Here’s an organic spray for many insects like aphids, mites, thrips, whiteflies, and other small insects. This formula even serves as a mild fungicide. Mixing instructions follow:

  • Horticultural grade insecticidal soap, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water
  • Horticultural grade neem oil, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water
    • Mix everything well, and then continue to shake periodically during use.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally — soak them — and be sure to get the undersides of leaves where the insects feed.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.

Apply once a week during light pest season — or twice a week during heavy pest season.

Organic spray for all worms or caterpillars:

  • 1 tablespoon per gallon of water (or label rate), of Bacillus thuringiensis (BT, brand name Thuricide)
    • Follow label and mix well.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally — soak the plant well — and be sure to get the undersides of leaves where the worms or caterpillars feed.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.

Apply when you first start seeing worms in the areas they are feeding.

Organic spray for leaf fungus like powdery mildew:

  • Potassium bicarbonate, or Mil-Stop brand.
  • Follow instructions on label, and mix well.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally. Soak the plants well.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

Scissortail Farms Breaks Ground on Vertical Aeroponic Farm

Scissortail 1Scissortail Farms is going to be the newest name in fresh, local, and living produce in the Tulsa, Oklahoma region! After more than a year of planning, the company is excited to announce that it is breaking ground on its state-of-the-art, one-acre vertical food farm.

Scissortail’s ground-breaking urban farm, which utilizes Future Growing®’s patented vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® technology, will use up to 95% less water on 90% less land. Importantly, no herbicides and harmful chemicals will be applied to the food crops.

This ground-breaking, sustainable technology also features live plants, harvested and distributed to restaurants and produce wholesalers all in the same day. The USDA claims that up to 40% of nutrition is lost on fresh cut produce by the time it is purchased at a local grocery store.  Living produce harvested with the roots intact not only maintains amazing freshness, but also holds on to the extraordinary nutrition the plant had at point of harvest! This local farm will forever change the way Oklahomans think about their food and what is possible for their state with the Future Growing® technology.

Scissortail 2

Tim Blank, Founder & CEO of Future Growing LLC (Click photo to enlarge)

Scissortail Farms will supply local, all natural, non-GMO, sustainable produce to many of the local restaurants and produce wholesalers in the Tulsa area. As a result, they already have an excited waiting list, as there is no one offering a wide variety of year-round, living produce in this region. One local restaurant owner said, “Imagine how my customers will respond to local, fresh, and sustainable produce in the middle of a Tulsa winter! It’s just not available to us now!”.

The new farm will be comprised of three main areas: a half acre of high-tech greenhouses, propagation greenhouses, and a state-of-the-art produce packing facility. The half acre of high-tech greenhouses provides the perfect year-round controlled environment for 1,400 vertical aeroponic Future Growing Towers. The produce that is grown vertically in this half acre replaces up to five acres of conventional horizontal growing systems, representing an extraordinary cost savings in infrastructure and operations, including heating and cooling.

Bibb Lettuce from Tower Garden®

Bibb Lettuce from Tower Garden®. (Click photo to enlarge)

The aeroponic towers contain oversized plant sites, so almost any above-ground crop can be grown with plenty of room for both the plants and the root systems, a feature not commonly found in most modern hydroponic systems. Scissortail Farms has found that this unique flexibility is a vital component to successful urban farming with today’s ever-changing local food requirements.

Today’s urban farmer needs to quickly adapt to what’s hot and what’s not in a competitive marketplace. The new owners at Scissortail Farms had the opportunity to train first-hand at other successful Future Growing farms around the US. Urban farmer Alex Thompson explains it best. “For me, it is like having crop insurance and an extraordinary growing system to boot! Can you imagine having to buy a whole new style of hydroponic growing system if you wanted to change crops? Adaptability is vital part of staying in business today!”

Asian Red Choi from Tower Garden®

Asian red choi from Tower Garden®. (Click photo to enlarge)

The greenhouse will also contain semi-automated carts traveling on a futuristic rail system, allowing greenhouse technicians to quickly move through crops raising and lowering to the desired harvesting and transplanting level on each tower.

The propagation greenhouse will be a state-of-the-art greenhouse dedicated to on-site seedling production. This growing space allows for on-site total control of the plant sources and materials. Organic and non-GMO seeds will be germinated and grown in a clean environment that is free of plant pests and diseases. Once the seedlings have reached their prime, they will enter onto a trolley system that will take them to their aeroponic Tower Garden® grow-out location, where they will spend the next two to four weeks reaching maturity.

Exotic Purple Basil from Tower Garden®

Exotic purple basil from Tower Garden®. (Click photo to enlarge)

The high tech produce packing facility is the transition point from farm to market. Utilizing the automated harvesting and packaging equipment, each living plant can be harvested, packed, and shipped within 30 minutes of removing the plant from the aeroponic system.

I am personally excited to be partnering with such an extraordinary group of people at Scissortail Farms.  Over the past year I have come to learn much about their integrity to create a better planet and bring local agriculture back to Oklahoma.

You will have an opportunity to learn much more in the coming months.

Stay tuned for more information on the amazing farm coming later in 2013!

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

A Small Family Farm Inspires Health for an Entire Community and Beyond

A small family farm can positively impact the health of an entire family and an entire community in so many ways, I would like to introduce you to a family of vertical farmers and tell you how the vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® has transformed their lives. Husband-and-wife team Dr. Mitra Ray and Doug Barlow have spent the last two decades educating others on the power of whole food nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. Getting fresh local veggies year-round in their home town of Seattle is extremely difficult especially during the winter and spring, and this family was determined to change that.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

Dr. Mitra RayDoug Barlow

Pictured above: Urban farmers Dr. Mitra Ray and Doug Barlow

Q: Doug, how did you first learn about vertical aeroponic farming?

Mitra Blog 1

Living Towers Farm – Eustis, Florida. (Click photo to enlarge)

When I first heard about the concept of vertical aeroponics and the Tower Garden®, I immediately thought: “How cool is that?” The opportunity to hear NSA founder and CEO Jay Martin share his perspective on how the Tower Garden® would fit into the future of our society was fascinating, and I didn’t need any convincing as to how this would fit into my family’s lifestyle. In addition, seeing Dr. Jan Young’s commercial farm, Living Towers, shed light on a totally new paradigm relating to the future of local food production. I quickly realized that aeroponic vertical farming has a minimal impact on the environment and maximum output in a small space, with a fraction of the effort of traditional farming methods. We were very excited by the opportunity to get three Tower Gardens® of our own and begin our journey of growing more food at home!

Q: Mitra, what inspired you to become a home-based vertical urban farmer?

In the early spring of 2011, a group of us took a trip with Jay Martin to the Living Towers Farm in Eustis, Florida. The first thing I noticed was the sign on the building, which said: “Beyond Organic”. Of course, I wanted to know what that meant, and I would soon find out. When you walk into your first aeroponic commercial farm, it appears a little sci-fi, futuristic, and cool. Dr. Jan’s Young’s farm was all that and more. What brought it all down to earth was the taste of the herbs. I am a foodie and I love to cook. I am way into the science of plant-based nutrition. After tasting the basil, I was intrigued. Next was cilantro, and I was sold. The herbs were bursting with flavor—a sign of nutrient-dense foliage.

Click photo to enlarge

I was extremely impressed by this technology, but I did wonder about the plastic. Why plastic? Why not ceramic or something more earthy for the container? Then, Tim Blank explained that the Tower was like a kitchen appliance and plastic allowed for precision parts. He too was concerned about the containers used in typical hydroponic growing—particularly Styrofoam, which is the most prevalent vertical material. The Tower Gardens® are made of food-grade, UV-protected plastic that will last many decades. During the exercise of assembling the Tower Gardens®, I realized that something earthy and fragile like ceramic would just not do the trick!

Next, we had lunch with all Tower Garden®-grown produce. All I can say is, yum! For dessert, I walked over to the strawberry Tower and decided right then and there that I would own at least one tower dedicated to strawberries only! How fun is that?! And I began to realize what “beyond organic” really tasted like. We ordered three Tower Gardens® after that amazing urban farm tour.

Doug, how did you incorporate your first Tower Gardens® into your home?

Click photo to enlarge

Spring weather in the Pacific Northwest can be challenging when it comes to gardening, so the opportunity to experiment with the Tower Garden® created a whole new passion for gardening in me. Before Tower Gardens®, our home had limited opportunities for food production. It’s on a steep hill facing south-southwest, which goes down to the waters of Port Susan, on the southern half of the Salish Sea Basin. We don’t receive direct sunlight until midday, and there are very few flat spaces that get enough sun to nourish a garden. The Tower Garden® provided a perfect solution to our particular gardening challenges.

We had recently terraced part of our hillside (to minimize the encroachment of the lush flora that is part of the coastal Washington state environment), and this provided a perfect space to create a unique Tower Garden® experience. Since our deck is a place that receives the earliest direct sunlight during the day, the Tower Garden® also provided a wonderful opportunity to grow food in a small space on our deck.

Click photo to enlarge


Q: Mitra, tell me more about this interesting piece of property.
Well, we live on a steep hill with very little land for growing food. It is beautiful, but there is not much gardening space. The only flat piece of land was at the bottom of a 120-step staircase. A few years prior, Doug had managed to drag enough gardening material down to the beach to create a nice waterfront garden. But maintenance required long hours. When the Tower Gardens® arrived, we had to make space for seedlings in the house, so we set the Towers right out on the patio. This was in April in the Pacific Northwest. Within a month, we were eating salads from the Tower Gardens®.
.

Click photo to enlarge

Every morning, we make a green drink with dark leafy greens, seasonal fruits and seeds (flax, chia, and sunflower). In the past, we got our local, organic greens from our co-op. I never imagined that I would like our Tower Garden®-grown greens so much better! There is nothing like picking your greens the same day as eating them. Every gardener knows that. But these greens are especially good. I asked Tim about the term, “aeroponics” again. In fact, by this time I had spent several hours on the phone learning from Tim about aeroponics. During a business trip to Seattle in 2011, Tim had a chance to visit our home and give us some pointers. Through our sharing, we decided to do a webinar together on this information, which is available on http://drmitraray.com/urban-gardening.

Q: So, Mitra, how did you transition from three Tower Gardens® to a small family farm?

The more we learned, the more excited we got. What started out as three Tower Gardens® grew into a small family farm and, honestly, I have lost count of how many Tower Gardens® we have over the entire property! I love to sit outside on the balcony, eat lunch with our own produce, and listen to the running water from the Tower Gardens®. The first summer, we grew peppers, cauliflower, tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, all kinds of salad greens, and dark leafy greens. We all felt like we had taken our already healthy lifestyle to another level with fresh produce at our fingertips.

Click photo to enlarge


With the onset of the cold fall weather, it did not take long for us to realize how much we missed having access to the high volume of Tower Garden® fresh produce on demand. Plus, the expense of buying lackluster organic greens from our local food coop was added back into the weekly shopping budget. In mid-December, I began sprouting kale, chard, collards, some lettuce, and herbs. I picked up a 5½ ft. x 5½ ft. plastic pop-up greenhouse from Lowe’s for about $85. I picked up several 4-foot T5 fluorescent fixtures, and celebrated the New Year by starting my winter Tower Garden® project on the shores of Port Susan. With the average high being in the low 40s, and the nightly low just above freezing, I dropped a 200-watt heater in each of the three reservoirs, and 30 days later we were harvesting greens! The portable greenhouse provided just enough protection to grow fresh produce during our winter months on the ocean, and I realized that, with minimal power consumption, we could continue to grow our own food 12 months of the year.

Click photo to enlarge


The greenhouse also provided a place to start my springtime Tower Garden® farm much earlier than Mother Nature will often allow. Whereas some people would not consider planting much before May or June, I could be harvesting by the time traditional neighborhood gardeners were just getting started.

As we entered our second full growing season, we raised cauliflower, broccoli, beans, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, a variety of dark leafy greens, several different types of lettuce, several herbs, and edible flowers. One Tower Garden® was dedicated strictly to strawberries. Because of the different micro-climates that exist on our hillside, we had warm weather crops growing on our deck, and cooler weather crops growing in our terrace hillside garden. One of the best aspects of the Tower Garden® was that we had virtually no issues related to dirt-borne predators. There was no need for any herbicides or pesticides with the Tower Gardens®, even when I had the reservoirs set in the dirt of our terraced hillside garden. The joy of watching my girls harvest strawberries directly from the Tower Garden® whenever they walked by was delightful!

Click photos above to enlarge

Q: Doug, how did you transition from the small greenhouse to a larger one?

By the second winter I realized that I needed to find a more permanent solution to my portable plastic pop-up green house so we purchased a larger 10 ft. x 12ft. metal-framed polycarbonate structure.

Q: Mitra, do you like the winter produce?

At this point, I turn my nose when I walk into Whole Foods and see a pathetic looking bunch of organic kale with a price tag of $5. And it is wilted! I saw a TED talk where an urban gardener said: “Growing your own food is like printing money!”, and I have to agree. It is not just the cost of the food at stake; it is preventative health care and savings down the road. I am convinced that the biggest drain on a household’s budget is health care, and most people have no idea what poor health (from poor eating habits and lifestyle) actually costs them in the long run.

Click photo to enlarge


Q: Mitra and Doug, what is next for you?
Our experience with the Tower Garden® Farm has been nothing short of extraordinary. We try to live our lives with as little impact as possible; but, as my brother-in-law points out, one can never do enough to minimize one’s carbon footprint.

The Tower Garden®, being a closed-loop system with no run-off, has brought about an even greater awareness of the relationship that we humans have with Mother Earth, and allows us to do our own part in an even greater way in terms of minimizing our impact. Whether it is food safety, nutritional status, environmental impact, sustainability, or cost, I really feel that the Tower Garden® is a game-changer on so many levels. In addition, it provides any family with an opportunity to contribute to their own well being, and that of the planet. It is the most fun—with the least amount of effort—that a family can have. And the education will last for generations.

Because our children are the planet’s future, we started a science project at our children’s school, lending them a Tower Garden® for the school year. This led some of the teachers to get excited about a bigger project, teaching sustainable living. Next school year, we will donate a family farm of three towers to the school as a part of this project.

Teaching the next generation about food production, and its relation to human health, is an important educational piece that is mostly missing today. Many schools are incorporating gardens into their schools as a way to bring in this missing piece. The Tower Gardens® just make the gardening venture more fun and productive. They also illustrate water conservation, because using a closed system avoids runoff. Today’s kids know that their parents—as well as previous generations—are leaving behind a world wrought with complex societal issues and environmental pollution. It is nice to expose them to elegant solutions such as Tower Gardens®, so they can have hope in their hearts about their future.

Stepping Up for the Homeless of Los Angeles

SUOV Blog 1
I am excited to announce the opening of a new rooftop farm in the heart of Los Angeles supporting the area’s chronically homeless.

Step Up on Vine

Step Up on Vine. (Click photo to enlarge)


Step up on Vine, a Platinum LEED-certified, 34-room permanent housing facility for the homeless featuring an expansive Future Growing® rooftop aeroponic farm, is the result of a $12 million renovation of an abandoned hotel in Hollywood.

I firmly believe that the homeless should have access to the same quality nutrition and food that everyone else has access to, and this ground-breaking new facility does just that. For 25 years, the Step Up on Second organization has provided psychosocial rehabilitation and support, including permanent supportive housing, to people affected by severe and persistent mental illness in the Los Angeles area.

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Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant, Tod Lipka, and Bill Clinton. (Click photo to enlarge)

The Step Up Foundation, led by president and CEO Tod Lipka, decided to support the city’s homeless even further by adding a Future Growing® rooftop farm, which provides a year-round supply of fresh, chemical-free lettuce, fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the rooftop. You cannot get fresh, sustainable produce that is more local than produce that was picked a few feet from your apartment! Importantly, the farm is also providing vocational training and horticultural therapy for the homeless.

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Chives. (Click photo to enlarge)

The vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® farm allows for a huge amount of produce to be grown in a small footprint, while still providing room for a peaceful and healing sanctuary for the building’s tenants in the middle of a busy metropolitan environment. The rooftop farm significantly reduces the carbon footprint of food and contributes to the building’s LEED points by using up to 95% less water, 90% less space, and safe food-grade growing materials.

Tim Blank and Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant and Tim Blank. (Click photo to enlarge)

As a member of the Clinton Global Initiative Call to Action, we are excited to share that the Clinton Global Initiative, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation, Step Up Foundation, and many other contributors have taken this multi-year project to reality. A special thanks to Aileen Getty and the Getty Foundation for her vision and passion for extraordinary health, which made this opportunity possible. I would also like to thank Tod Lipka and the entire team at the Step Up Foundation for their tireless efforts paving new territory in developing a local food program for their homeless housing.

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President Clinton’s tour of the rooftop. (Click photo to enlarge)

After former President Bill Clinton visited the rootop Tower Garden® farm during Step up On Vine’s grand opening, he said, “It’s just a blessing to me that my friends…wanted this to be a LEED certified building. And when I was going through it, Rick Fedrizzi, the head of the National Green Building Council, looked at me and said, it’s not just LEED, its ‘Platinum’ LEED.  That’s the highest rating you can gain. It’s good for the Los Angeles economy and it is good for lowering your long-term energy burden.”

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President Clinton and Tod Lipka.
(Click photo to enlarge)

In addition, President Clinton was very impressed with the Future Growing vertical aeroponic farming technology. “I went up on the roof and saw the garden. I was eating out of the garden, sort of like a rabbit. It’s the way it is—you grow up in the country, you’re used to eating out of the ground, and you do it when you can! It’s really wonderful,” he said.

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An interview with Tim Blank.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Future Growing® is honored to be a part of this magnificent project that not only impacts the lives as the homeless in Los Angeles, but all those who visit and work at Step Up on Vine. To support this great organization, visit http://www.stepuponsecond.org/index.html.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC