Hard Choices

As our hydroponic farming business has evolved over our first 18 months, we’ve faced a number of challenges, most of which we’ve been able to overcome with hard work, creative problem solving and the occasional stroke of luck. However, the recent news that the nutrient we use was no longer being manufactured – a vital component of our business – was an obstacle we didn’t quite know how to deal with.

As it turns out, finding a replacement nutrient, particularly one manufactured by a business whose ethics are in alignment with our own, is not as easy as one might think.

Historically, the hydroponic farming industry has been the domain of smaller, independent businesses that aimed to produce the highest quality products and supplies for growers of fruits, vegetables, or whatever else they chose to grow. With the rapid ascent of legal cannabis, the demand for hydroponic supplies has exploded in recent years. Likewise, the business climate has changed considerably, as smaller hydroponic suppliers have been bought up by big business and investment firms in a massive consolidation. Unfortunately, this shift toward big business has pushed much of the industry away from the smaller “Main Street” ethos toward a Wall Street-like focus on profits.

And until our preferred nutrient wasn’t available, little did we know that Botanicare, the manufacturer, had previously been purchased by Hawthorne Hydroponics, which in turn is owned by Scott’s Miracle-Gro which is, well, a bit too much of a corporate behemoth for us to at least not try to seek out an alternative supplier.

Do we care who manufactures our nutrient? Do we care about the ethics of big corporations who “help” grow food? Well, we absolutely do, as you probably know if you’ve followed Lansdowne Urban Farms closely. We try to be as environmentally responsible as possible. We use no pesticides, clean our systems without chemicals, and limit our trash output. Any green waste is sent to compost on our roof. Our packaging is minimal – we wrap our greens in paper that is designed to be recycled. And when customers indicate a preference for no packaging at all, we are more than happy to oblige!

As you might imagine, finding a replacement nutrient has not been easy. Although there are still smaller companies out there supplying the industry, the process of finding them, testing their product in our environment, and adapting our growing process for these new nutrients has caused more than a few sleepless nights. But, we do have options, and are confident that we will continue to be able to produce high-quality, nutritious food that is grown responsibly without having to compromise our ethics.

Doing so is simply the right thing to do – for us here at Lansdowne Urban Farms and for our supportive community. So if you’ve read this far, thank you for being a part of it!