Category Archives: greenhouses

Largest LED Vegetable Growing Factory in the World Opened in Japan in 2014

After the Great Earthquake that Japan experienced in 2011, it has repurposed a Sony Corporation semiconductor factory located in the northeast region’s Miyagi Prefecture and turned it into the world’s largest indoor farm illuminated by LEDs. General Electric reports that they developed the LED fixtures which emit light at wavelengths optimal for plant growth used in the indoor farm.

Another company involved in the project, Mirai Co., based in Tokyo, runs vegetable growing factories. This new growing indoor plant operation is on about 2,300 square meters of land and is able to produce 10,000 heads of lettuce plus other vegetables per day. The produce will be sold to local supermarkets.

The hope is to build more factories similar to this one in other parts of Japan. The LED lights reduce electricity consumption by 40 percent as compared to fluorescent lighting and can use spectrum specific light for optimal growing of the vegetables.

The combined venture further intends to export produce to other nations as well as export the entire growing factory set ups and technology. They have already received requests to do so.

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3 Picks: France Farmer Suicides, Henlights, Indoor Cropping

Below, are today’s three chosen agricultural-related news picks.

1) Male farmers in France are 20 percent more likely to take their own lives than the rest of the population: A new report says that financial pressures and social isolation are the leading causes. According to figures from France’s National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, revenue from farming fell by 23.6 percent between 2007 and 2008 and a further 35.3 percent between 2008 and 2009. Livestock farmers have been hit the worst.

2) Increasing Egg Production On Small Farms: A Solution To The International Food Crisis? By Abigail Wick.In Berlin on September 20-22, the 2013 Thought for Food Global Summit (TFF) convened thought leaders from 25 countries, including venture capitalists, politicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and university students to address the international food crisis from a wide array of disciplines, with the aim of generating collaborative, actionable strategies to feed the planet. … The winning team, from the University of California at Davis, introduced Henlights. A small, solar-powered LED light designed to be hung in chicken coops, Henlight can be used to stimulate increased egg production during darker winter months, when egg production naturally declines. A technique already use in large-scale egg production, Henlight makes this practice affordable for small-scale and family farms.

3) Optimism About the Future of Indoor Food Production: By Tess Riley. Hydroponics and LED lights used in indoor greenhouses, though the systems are expensive to build, have the potential to greatly increase vegetable yields, and protect plants from unpredictable weather. The increasing use of renewables as heat and energy sources in these systems is the way forward.

BONUS: Photos from Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” on the 2013 harvest from around the world.

This news post was written and compiled by K. McDonald.

Extend Your Growing Season with Simple Backyard Coldframes or Hoop Gardens

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

This one’s for the gardeners. The days are getting longer and we have a renewed hope for spring, that annual rebirth, the guarantee for a brand new growing season. Yesterday I already heard the first of the season’s Red Winged Blackbirds singing along South Boulder Creek. The Sandhill Cranes will be appearing in Nebraska shortly to fatten up on their way to Siberia, and the gardening catalogues are rolling in, too.

Serious gardeners itch for ways to extend the season both in the early spring and in the late fall. Here’s hoping that some of the photos below will serve to inspire you to take on a project to extend the season in your own space.

Here where I live in plant hardiness Zone 5 in Colorado, we raise greens for all but three months of the year in our backyard, and our seasonal extension comes from adding a four by six foot hoop garden bed. Our hoop garden is located under an evergreen tree which takes advantage of the sun’s angle in the off season for growing, and is shaded in the summertime. By locating it in such a spot we are not only extending the growing season, we have extended the available precious growing space available in the yard.

Don’t forget to know your seeds. By planting greens with the best cold tolerance, you can extend your season even more. Some seeds worth considering are spinach, mache, arugula, chard, claytonia, radish, winter lettuce mixes, italian dandelion, and mizuna.

Below, is a collection of photos of other gardener’s projects meant to inspire you to come up with a design that works well in your space…….

In this first photo, a hoop garden greenhouse was built to fit over an existing raised garden bed.

Next, here is a tidy cold frame made from corrugated plastic and a wooden frame benefiting from the thermal solar collection of the brick wall behind it. Thermal heat can be improved by adding plastic gallon milk jugs filled with water against the back wall of the coldframe, too.

This classic cold frame is located on the protected and sunny south side of a house using wood and plastic as materials.

Here someone has utilized an urban front yard space to grow a garden containing a simple A-frame plastic greenhouse. The small photo to the right shows an inner detail of that same greenhouse space showing us that the frame is constructed with strong bamboo posts.

This simple project was done by a boy with just plastic and left over bricks. The family will be able to reclaim the space easily for their summer garden.

This gardener used jars as mini-greenhouses to start seeds. The setup extended the season just slightly for lettuces grown on a protected bench behind a house.

The photo below shows us what appears to be the gardening space of a very serious Chicago gardener. Multiple growing beds are covered with spun polyester garden fabric and black plastic mulch is covering spaces between the beds.

For those desiring something bigger, here’s a simple, small backyard greenhouse that was a d.i.y. project using plastic and a wood frame with a corrugated plastic roof. (It looks like it needs a spot protected from the wind.)

Finally, this busy grower utilized indoor windows to the maximum, to start tomatoes early in recycled plastic food containers.

Hot 5: Short Corn. Solar Caps. Melinda Gates. Dr. Lindsay Campbell. Anthropocene video.

1. Purdue Researcher Has Developed Short Corn Plants Requiring Fewer Inputs But Having Equivalent Yields
A man by the name of Burkhard Schultz, a plant researcher at Purdue thinks that short varieties of corn and other grains could be the answer to farming in the future. With equivalent yields, the smaller plants would require less water and fertilizer. He has already created tiny corn by using a fungicide called propiconazole to inhibit steroid biosynthesis to “feminize” the plants, greatly reducing the cost of the research involved. This could also aid seed producers and potentially create grass that doesn’t need mowed as often. The overall environmental impact of farming could be reduced.


2. Gardening: Solar Caps can be Used as Mini-Greenhouses

I spoke with Mikl Brawner of Harlequin’s Gardens, my favorite nursery here in Boulder, about a product which he is promoting called a “solar cap.” According to Brawner, a commercial tomato grower in Wyoming developed it to help tomatoes get an early start in Wyoming’s cooler climate. Brawner has been able to start tomatoes in mid-April which produce by July using these caps. The cap is made up of a frame similar to a short tomato cage surrounded by a water filled bag similar to a wall o water complete with a plastic cover. He puts a slit in the cover to plant the tomato and then lets it grow through the slit as it gets taller all season long. Most importantly, the device needs set up a few days prior to planting the tomato to warm the soil first, which makes microorganisms available to the tomato plant.


3. TED Talk by Melinda Gates: Let’s Put Birth Control Back on the Agenda

In April of this year, Melinda Gates gave a TED talk in Germany saying that the issue of contraception “should be a totally uncontroversial topic. But unfortunately, it’s become incredibly controversial.” She makes the case for the world to re-examine an issue she intends to lend her voice to for the next decade.


4. Australian University of Sydney Agriculture Professor Speaks of His Concerns about Peak Oil and Agriculture

Sydney University Agriculture and Environment Professor Dr. Lindsay Campbell is concerned about “peak oil” in agriculture.

He listed these changes which he sees ahead:

  • will change the way farmers farm
  • will change the way farmers export, changing their target markets
  • will increase the price of farm chemicals, nitrogen, and phosphate
  • will increase freight costs from farm to market (which currently represents 10-12% the cost of the commodity)
  • predicts that farmers will be turning back the clock to the 1970s
  • legumes will again be used to fix nitrogen
  • farmers will turn from today’s specialization back to mixed farming systems


5. Anthropocene: Why You Should Get Used to the Age of Man