What does it take to run a hydroponic farm?

During these somewhat unnerving times, working at Lansdowne Urban Farms has been a perfectly pleasant escape from the world’s chaos. Here inside the Farm, its always “sunny,” a comfortable 72 degrees, and an overall happy place. Of course, it does take some work to keep it that way.

Curious about what happens here in a typical week? Well since you asked (wink), here is what goes in to nurturing the lettuces and greens that are now growing in our six hydroponic units.

  • Make sure all units have the right amount of water; our plants do drink a fair amount of it. Here’s an interesting fact: Our six units use about half as much water as the four people in my household use each month.
  • Check the nutrients and pH levels; add and delete as necessary
  • Leak check! Water is a tricky beast. What did not leak yesterday may very well be a leak today. Our units are comprised of many NFT trays and even more spaghetti hoses that feed them, providing lots of opportunities for water to escape.
  • Ensure there are no hoses clogged – green matter, parts of cubes, or other particulates can cause blockages.
  • Check every single unit…sometimes we aren’t even sure what we are looking for but every unit needs a good up and down inspection.
  • Clean out units completely – we schedule full cleanings on a weekly, rotating basis.
  • Check all plants, coddle them, talk to them (I’m not kidding), and remove plant material as needed
  • Start more new seeds in the ebb so that as we sell food, we have new greens growing.
  • Random repairs and fixes. You might be surprised what can break in a mechanical environment, so we have a growing array of tools and spare parts ready when needed. When something decides to break, like a pump, it needs to be fixed or replaced quickly. Without water, our lettuces and greens will expire rather quickly.
  • Educate ourselves, read, problem solve — and order seeds!

I think that’s most of it, at least from the farming side of the business. Not included is the marketing, staffing, bill paying, licensing, and other administrative tasks. Zachary and I are still learning, but as we do, we realize just how rewarding it is to grow and provide food. When the rest of the world feels tumultuous, Lansdowne Urban Farms is a really nice place to be.

Photo: Bronze Beauty Lettuce on the left and Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce on the right.