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Hydroponic strawberries growing quickly in the Agrow Cube

One of the most frequent questions people asked after touring our Agrow Cube display box at the Missouri State Fair in August was whether they could grow more than lettuces, herbs, and other leafy greens in the Agrow Cube. Specifically, they wanted to know if they could grow hydroponic strawberries.

We love a good challenge, and we take your questions seriously. Once winter temperatures hit, we set out to determine whether we could grow strawberries, a plant that grows best in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, during cold weather. Temperatures this December in central Missouri have mostly been in the 30s and 40s, with dips down into the teens, far from ideal strawberry weather.

In late November, we planted dormant strawberry root balls directly in rockwool cubes. (Rockwool cubes are melted rock and sand that is spun into fibers and then shaped into cubes.)  The temperature inside the insulated Agrow Cube right now is kept at a balmy 68 degrees Fahrenheit. (For more information about the insulated box, which is a repurposed walk-in cooler manufactured by Snowman Cooler, another division of our parent company, Prock Operations, check out this blog post.)

Once the bulbs, in the rockwool cubes, were planted in the grow spaces, they had access to a constant stream of nutrient-rich water and time-regulated LED lights.

strawberry seedlings in hydroponics pipes
With vertical farming, we can assemble 225 strawberry plants!

Because of the vertical farming layout inside Agrow Cube, we were able to plant 225 strawberry plants in a small amount of space for this test planting. We have four rows of plants growing in a hydroponics system. (Check out our blog post to learn about the benefits of vertical farming.)

We didn’t expect to see flowers for four to six weeks after planting, but in less than two weeks, we had the first buds! The pictures below were taken exactly ten days after the plants were placed in the grow spaces. We’re now tracking how long it takes the strawberry plants to bear fruit after the bloom. Hydroponics really does make plants grow stronger and faster. Not to mention how wonderful it is to grow strawberries in Missouri in December!

We’ll check back in with an update once the plants start bearing fruit, which, if the flowers are any indication, will be much sooner than we expect.

Since the strawberries are self-pollinating but need a little assistance from wind or pollinators, we will also share our pollination setup in a future post.

strawberry blooms in hydroponics pipes
Strawberry plants blooming when it is only 30 degrees outside!
close-up of strawberry blooms in hydroponics pipes
Some plants already have flowers after only 10 days!

In traditional farming, it should take 4 to 6 weeks after blossom for strawberries to be ready to harvest! We will keep you updated in our blog and on social media about how our strawberries grow!

Stay tuned and follow Agrow Cube on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to find out how long it will take for strawberries to grow from dormant root balls to harvestable fruit using hydroponics!

strawberry seedlings in hydroponics pipes

How fast does lettuce grow in Agrow Cube using hydroponics? (With pictures!)

Our Royal Red lettuce has grown so big! And it is entirely grown with hydroponics in Agrow Cube! The pictures below start exactly 3 weeks from the day we first planted seeds in rockwool cubes. At 3 weeks, we transplanted the seedlings into the grow spaces, and measured their growth each week. See their fast hydroponics growth rate for yourself!

3 weeks – 1.5 inches

hydroponics royal red lettuce 3 weeks growth

4 weeks – 2.5 inches

hydroponics royal red lettuce 4 weeks growth

5 weeks – 3.75 inches

hydroponics royal red lettuce 5 weeks growth

6 weeks  – 7 inches

hydroponics royal red lettuce 6 weeks growth

After only 6 weeks of growth in hydroponics, the lettuce has grown so much that the pipes can barely hold more!

Look at the difference 3 weeks makes! Picture on the left is 3 weeks growth and on the right 6 weeks growth!

hydroponics royal red lettuce 3 weeks growth and 6 weeks growth

Check out more pictures of plants grown in Agrow Cube in our last blog post.

To learn more about Agrow Cube, visit our website www.agrowcube.com, email info@agrowcube.com, or call (800) 356-8351.

Follow us on social media to see Agrow Cube in action and to receive regular updates about what we’re doing and where we will be: Facebook – Twitter  Instagram.

What Can You Grow with Agrow Cube?

Because it combines hydroponics  with  an insulated box , Agrow Cube has the capacity to grow all year round and bring fresh food to the table even during the coldest months of winter. You might think that with the lack of soil and limited space there are limited options for growing, but you can grow a wide variety of plants inside an Agrow Cube.

The first box design, currently available, is set up to grow lettuces, herbs, and other leafy greens. The second and third box designs, coming soon, will grow strawberries and tomatoes and peppers, respectively.  Agrow Cube enables you to add fresh, local produce with great nutritional value, whether you are creating salads for students in your school district or adding aromatics to a meal at your restaurant. No matter where you are, plants are always useful when cooking.

Not only can you grow produce year round with Agrow Cube, but they also grow faster than using traditional farming methods. Here are some of the plants we’ve grown in our Agrow Cube. The following photos of the plans were taken exactly four weeks after we first planted the seeds in the rockwool cubes.

Arugula

arugula seedlings growing in a hydroponics systemarugula seedlings growing in a hydroponics system

Buttercrunch

buttercrunch lettuce seedlings growing in a hydroponics systembuttercrunch lettuce seedlings growing in a hydroponics system

Royal Red

royal red lettuce seedlings growing in a hydroponics systemroyal red lettuce seedlings growing in a hydroponics system

Salad mix

salad mix seedlings growing in a hydroponics systemsalad mix seedlings growing in a hydroponics system

Thyme

thyme seedlings growing in a hydroponics systemthyme seedlings growing in a hydroponics system

We’ve also planted other plants such as basil, parsley, kale, cilantro, iceberg lettuce, cabbage, spinach, radishes, oregano, mint, and even flowers such as impatiens.

Impatiens

blooming white impatiens in a hydroponics system

You can also check out our latest blog post about the difference between hydroponics and aquaponics.

To learn more about Agrow Cube, visit our website www.agrowcube.com, email info@agrowcube.com, or call (800) 356-8351.

Follow us on social media to see Agrow Cube in action and to receive regular updates about what we’re doing and where we will be: Facebook – Twitter – Instagram.

What is the difference between aquaponics and hydroponics?

We regularly talk about the benefits of farming with hydroponics (for example, faster plant growth and year round growing ). We often get questions about the differences between hydroponics and aquaponics, the two main farming methods that use water without soil.

Hydroponics is a farming method that relies on plants growing in nutrient-rich water instead of in soil. In our Agrow Cube, we use the nutrient film technique, where a continued flow of nutrient-rich water flows across the plant roots.

agrow-cube-hydroponics-water-pipes-water-tank
An employee connects the water tank to the pipes. Each hole in the pipes represents a spot for a plant to grow.

Aquaponics is very similar to hydroponics; it is still a water-based farming method, where water runs over the roots of the plants to bring all the necessary nutrients. The only difference between aquaponics and hydroponics is that in aquaponics, you do not add nutrients to the water. Instead, there are live fish in the water tank! The fish waste produces the nutrients the plants need, making a sustainable ecosystem. The nutrient-rich water that results from the fish provides the plants with a natural fertilizer, and the plants purify the water for the fish. Together, the fish and the plants create an efficient system.

img_33541
In aquaponics, plants take their nutrients from fish waste.

Therefore, the main difference between hydroponics and aquaponics is the presence of fish in the water tank. Hydroponics doesn’t use fish, but required nutrients are added to the water; aquaponics use fish to naturally provide nutrients to the plants.

agrow-cube-cabbage-roots-hydroponics
In both hydroponics and aquaponics, the water is running under the roots of the plants, through the different pipes in the Agrow Cube.

We use a hydroponics system inside the standard Agrow Cube, but have an aquaponics system inside the test box set up at our headquarters. Agrow Cube’s hydroponics system has shown great results with strong plant growth that is faster than traditional farming. Agrow Cube brings a steady supply of food all year round by combining hydroponics with our insulated box.  For more information about year round farming with Agrow Cube, visit our related post. 

To learn more about Agrow Cube, visit our website www.agrowcube.com, email info@agrowcube.com, or call today at (800) 356-8351.

Follow us on social media to see Agrow Cube in action and to receive regular updates   about what we’re doing and where we will be: FacebookTwitter Instagram.

9 facts about Agrow Cube!

Learn more about Agrow Cube, the new self-contained agriculture system, with nine interesting facts!

1. 2000 cubic feet!

A standard 10’ x 20’ Agrow Cube is a closed system with 2000 cubic feet of space inside. It is small enough to fit in most places, such as crowded urban areas, in the back alley of a restaurant, or on school premises, but provides you with plenty of room to grow.

agrow-cube-missouri-state-fair
Agrow Cube is small enough to fit most places.
2. 1000 plants!

You can grow up to 1000 plants at a time in the Agrow Cube despite the small size! Agrow Cube uses vertical farming to grow more plants in a small space.

agrow-cube-rockwool-cube-seedlings-seed-station-hydroponics
A variety of seedlings is ready to be transplanted into the grow tubes.
3. 68 degrees F all year round!

Agrow Cube is an insulated box, which means the temperature stays the same all year round, and is not affected by summer or winter. The best temperature to grow plants such as lettuce and herbs is 68 degrees, and with Agrow Cube, you can maintain that perfect growing temperature all year long.

4. No soil!

Plants don’t need soil to grow! They only need water, oxygen, and sunlight. Agrow Cube provides all those elements in a hydroponics farming system.

agrow-cube-hydroponics-parsley-clay-pebbles
Plants in clay pebbles to provide support for their growth and permit water circulation.
5. Environmental friendly!

Because there is no soil, and it is a closed system, pests aren’t an issue unless you bring them inside. There’s no need for pesticides even if you do! Simply use environmentally friendly organic means of removal. Agrow Cube can also be powered by a solar power system. However you power your Agrow Cube, you’ll have an environmentally friendly space to grow plants all year long.

agrow-cube-red-basil-hydroponics-clay-pebbles-leds
The red basil is ready to be harvested after growing hydroponically!
6. Less water!

Agrow Cube is a closed loop water system, and water recirculates through the tubes and the water tank. There is no water run-off, and therefore no water wasted! Though hydroponics is a water-based farming system, it uses less water than traditional soil farming. The Agrow Cube uses around 110 gallons of water a month!

7. No nitrogen run-off!

Because there is no water runoff with Agrow Cube, there is no wastewater to contaminate the water table with pesticides or fertilizers. Traditional soil farming can release nitrogen and phosphorous and contribute to nutrient pollution in local water sources. Not with Agrow Cube!

agrow-cube-hydroponics-water-pipes-grow-spaces
The water recirculates through the tubes, there is no water lost to runoff.
8. Faster growth

Agrow Cube gives you control over light, water, nutrients, and temperature, enabling you to supercharge plant growth. Plants grow faster in a hydroponics system like the one in Agrow Cube.

9. Low electricity use!

Because Agrow Cube uses an energy efficient heating and cooling system and LED lights for plant growth, it uses minimum electricity each month.

Agrow Cube is a new efficient agriculture product to provide a steady supply of food all year long! To learn more about Agrow Cube, visit our website www.agrowcube.com or call us today at (800) 356-8351.

Follow us on social media to see Agrow Cube in action and to receive regular updates about what we’re doing and where we will be: FacebookTwitter Instagram.

A Farm For Your School: An Interactive Learning Experience

October is national Farm To School Month! To celebrate, our Agrow Cube has been installed at Pete’s Pumpkin Patch, where students, along with their families during the weekend or on scheduled field trips during the week, are coming to visit the Agrow Cube and learn about agriculture, business, and the importance of fresh, local produce.

The Farm to School initiative teaches the importance of farming in our communities and having access to fresh, local food, especially at school, where students can gain knowledge about the food industry and learn where food comes from. Having a school garden directly on campus provides several beneficial experiences for students. They can build  a positive relationship with healthy food; learn the difference between processed food and food grown naturally; and see the benefits of eating food that was grown locally.

Agrow Cube is an interactive small farm in a box. It can be integrated into a classroom to teach students about agriculture and running a small business, and give them a hands-on experience right there at the school. The cafeteria staff can also benefit from each Agrow Cube harvest with better access to fresh, local produce while teachers incorporate the interactive farm into their lesson plans.

Agrow Cube doesn’t use soil for its  plants, but instead uses the hydroponics farming method, which a water-based farming method. The water is automatically circulated through the pipe system by a water pump, and requires little maintenance.  This system is perfect for students, who can farm without creating a big mess of soil, water, and weeds. To learn more about hydroponics, check out our related blog post.

Besides being a soil-free farm, Agrow Cube is also insulated, which provides a farming experience all year round. Agrow Cube is a great tool for classrooms throughout the school year, because teachers and students can interact with the Agrow Cube during every season! To learn more about year round farming with Agrow Cube, visit our last blog post.

red basil growing in a hydroponics pipe setup
The water in Agrow Cube is trapped in the tubes, creating less mess.

The Agrow Cube can be incorporated into lesson plans in a variety of ways.

Discovery and senses

Young students can use their senses when learning about agriculture and  hydroponics:

Smell: Identify plants based on their scents (e.g., basil, mint, rosemary) and describe smells so that other students can find the same plant.

Touch: Touch the plants and feel the different textures to learn about new plants and how to care for plants without harming them.

Sight: Recognize different types of plants based on physical aspects such as coloring, leaf distribution, and size.  Students can also watch how the plants change during the different stages of growth. Students can learn how to recognize when plants have just been planted, and which ones are almost ready to be harvested.

Parsley growing in a hydroponics system, planted inside clay pebbles
Students can learn how to recognize parsley based on the shape of the leaves.

Biology

Students can see biology at work by tracking plant growth while controlling the amount of water, light, and nutrients plants receive.  They will be able to learn by doing: each student can be put in charge of specific plants that they will check every few days, track growth, and harvest themselves.

They can learn what plants need to grow with specific amounts of light, water, oxygen, and a certain temperature, and every plant requires different specifics. They can also learn about plant categories, similarities and differences between plants, and how many different plants can grow in one space.

Students can also recognize the different stages of a plant growth, which are seedlings, sprouts, and full harvestable plants. They can also learn to recognize the differences between healthy plants and ones that are struggling to grow. Then students can experiment with how to increase plant growth by adjusting light, temperature, nutrient, and water settings.

Seedlings growing in a rockwool cube.
Students can be in charge of their own individual plants from seedling to harvest.

Math and Business

Agrow Cube is designed to be treated like a small business. Therefore, it works as a great hands-on learning experience to teach students about math, business structure and management, economic systems, and marketing.

Students will be able to calculate the cost of supply and transportation, the time dedicated to running a small business, and how to review competitors in order to competitively price their harvested plants to sell to the school, farmers’ markets, or other customers.

The Agrow Cube also provides a good, interactive tool for teaching students how to be informed consumers. Teachers can separate students into groups of farmers and customers and teach them how to design business plans, ask consumer questions, and deal with issues that arise during negotiations and sales.

Global Awareness

Teachers can use the Agrow Cube to encourage discussions about the origin of food, the importance of access to fresh produce, and how food can be available in one area but not another. Students can learn about the history of agriculture in their home state, what is the famous food in the state, and how agriculture affects local culture.

Teachers can start a discussion about how some areas of the world have difficulty to access food, because of the different climates, and why it is important to shop food locally and in season.

Integrating Agrow Cube to a school means having the benefit of a small farm and a small business directly on the school premises, which provides students with access to agriculture, science, math, business, and cultural hands-on learning opportunities.

To learn more about Agrow Cube and the pricing, visit our website www.agrowcube.com, or call us today at (800) 356-8351.

Follow us on social media to see Agrow Cube in action and to receive regular updates about what we’re doing and where we will be: Facebook Twitter Instagram

Grow Up with Agrow Cube: The Benefits of Vertical Farming

Agrow Cube combines hydroponics and vertical farming inside an insulated box for year round growing. Plants are grown in vertically stacked layers, which enables you to grow more plants per square foot than the same space used for traditional farming. When vertical farming is combined with a hydroponics growing system, you can grow more plants in more places despite space and temperature limitations.

What are the benefits of Vertical Farming?

Perfect for limited space!

When you have limited space available, vertical farming is a great option because vertically stacked growing spaces means more plants can be grown in a small amount of space. This is especially important for urban gardening, where open land is at a premium, and building gardens up instead of out may be the only option.

Agrow Cube is designed for easy installation in urban areas: between buildings, in restaurant parking lots, directly on school premises, or on urban building rooftops. Its panelled construction means it can be installed in any location without access to a crane; each panel can fit inside a freight elevator and can easily be carried into spaces that are otherwise difficult to access. Agrow Cube brings a local farming into urban areas where traditional farming space is lacking.

Four levels of PVC pipes cut for growing plants in a vertical farming hydroponics system.
Taking advantage of vertical space by stacking the hydroponics pipes on top of each other

Grow more plants in less space

Agrow Cube uses vertical space so that you can grow more plants in a limited amount of space. The 10’ x 20’ Agrow Cube box can grow 2000 plants in only 200 square feet because growing spaces are vertically stacked to take advantage of the height of the box.

Interior shot of Agrow Cube with LED lights, plants, and hydroponics water system.
Agrow Cube can grow up to 2000 plants by using vertical farming!
Bring farming into the city

When  you install an Agrow Cube in an urban area, you bring farming into the city. Not only does the Agrow Cube give you room to grow a wide variety of plants in a small space, but it brings nature to places where green plants and fresh produce are limited. Too, it adds a natural aesthetic to the location; though Agrow Cube is a closed box, the exterior design can provide a clean, green visual element that  stands out against the surrounding buildings.

Who can benefit from using the hydroponics and vertical farming inside an Agrow Cube?

Agrow Cube is a sustainable source of food for several locations that lack access to a farm.

Urban Farmers!

With the limited space available in cities, Agrow Cube enables urban farmers to grow fresh produce right there in the city. Whether set up in alleys between buildings or on rooftops, Agrow Cube can fit into small spaces.  The insulated box will provide a year-round farming season to feed the entire building! To learn more about farming year round with Agrow Cube, visit our previous blog post!

Schools!

It is important to connect children with agriculture and healthy eating habits. (October is National Farm to School Month. For more information about Farm to School initiatives, visit farmtoschool.org.) Instead of taking time away from the classroom by  taking a field trip to a farm, why not bring the farm to school? Students can learn about farming, plant cycles, small business operation, and more in the Agrow Cube. It also provides steady access to fresh produce all year long.

Seedlings planted in rockwool cube.
It is so easy to grow with hydroponics that even a child can do it!
Restaurants!

Restaurant cooks would love to have a steady supply of fresh herbs all year long! Agrow Cube can be installed behind a restaurant, in a parking lot, or in an alley, and provides access to fresh produce all year round. Farm to Table has never tasted so good.

Red basil plants grown in a hydroponics vertical farm.
Restaurant cooks can have easy access to basil and other herbs all year round.

Agrow Cube offers more plants per square feet than traditional farming does by taking full advantage of vertical space, and it can be installed in a wide variety of location, including urban areas with limited space. To learn more about Agrow Cube and all the different possibilities you can explore with it, visit www.agrowcube.com. Check out our previous blog posts on the benefits of hydroponics and how Agrow Cube can be used 365 days a year.

Don’t forget to  follow us on social media for regular updates about vertical farming and Agrow Cube! Facebook – Instagram – Twitter

Too Cold to Grow? Not with Agrow Cube! Hydroponics Inside an Insulated Box

In our last post, we talked about several benefits of hydroponics. These benefits are increased when you combine a hydroponics system with technology to protect your plants for year round growing. Agrow Cube does just that: it combines vertical farming and hydroponics with a weather-proof insulated box that enables you to benefit from growing in a hydroponics system 365 days of the year.

365 days of the year? How is that possible?

Agrow Cube is a self-contained agricultural system; it is a hydroponics system inside an insulated box. Because the insulated box is designed to keep its internal temperature steady during extreme weather, it is possible to grow every day of the year.

The Insulated Box

Render of an Agrow Cube hydroponics vertical farming system.
Render of the Agrow Cube insulated box and interior hydroponics system.

Agrow Cube uses the same technology that we have perfected for industrial coolers that must be kept at -20 degrees F  internally in extreme 100+ degrees F heat. Each box is protected from outside weather by a dense polyextruded composite foam shaped to the exact size of each panel, which provides far better insulation than spray foam. The 4” thick insulated panels securely interlock using a double sealed gasket and latch system. Agrow Cube is designed to protect your plants from extreme weather, hot and cold temperatures, and storms.

To learn more about insulated walk-in coolers, visit Snowman Coolers.

The Hydroponics System Inside the Agrow Cube

Perfect temperature

Agrow Cube gives you complete control over the internal environment through a split-system heating and cooling climate control unit, air pump and distribution manifold, water pump, and airstone and supply line. It captures the best growing day of the season — perfect sun, perfect temperature, perfect CO2 levels — and recreates it 365 days of the year even through hot summer days and cold winter nights.

Variety of plants growing in a hydroponics vertical farming system inside an Agrow Cube insulated box.
The hydroponics system inside the Agrow Cube
Perfect water

Agrow Cube uses the nutrient film technique (NFT) hydroponics water system in which a continuous flow of nutrient-rich water runs over the plant roots, but the roots are not fully submerged. It uses a custom pipe and pump system to produce the continuous flow: the water cycles through the pipes, over the plant roots, and back into the water tank where you easily add nutrients and control the oxygen levels in the water. This system eliminates water and nutrient loss due to wastewater runoff, and gives you control of the nutrients, oxygen levels and pH of the water. The system is designed for easy maintenance.

Perfect light

Agrow Cube uses LEDs in its hydroponics system. LEDs provide the most control over the light spectrum and use less energy than halide or fluorescent lights. For lettuces, herbs, and leafy greens, Agrow Cube uses full spectrum LEDs. The lighting system enables you to set light and dark cycles to create the perfect growth environment for your plants.

Agrow Cube: A Self-Contained Agricultural System

Agrow Cube combines the benefits of hydroponics and vertical farming with a weather-proof insulated box to create the perfect growing environment 365 days of the year. With Agrow Cube, you can provide fresh, locally grown produce to schools, restaurants, and farmers’ markets all year long.

To learn more about how Agrow Cube can help you take advantage of the benefits of hydroponics, visit our website www.agrowcube.com and follow us on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

No Dirt? No Problem! Better, Faster Growing with Hydroponics

What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a farming method that doesn’t use soil. Instead, plants grow in a mix of water and nutrients. If you’ve ever regrown lettuce by putting the base plant and roots in a cup of water, you’ve seen hydroponics in action. Hydroponics systems bring gardening indoors. Systems vary, but include a grow space, a water system with nutrients added, and a light system to replicate sunlight.

Plants in various stages of growth in a hydroponics system.
Hydroponics system in action in the Agrow Cube

There are major benefits to using a hydroponics system:

Faster growing!

Plants in a hydroponics system grow significantly faster than plants grown in soil. This is in large part due to the efficiency of the hydroponics system. In a closed-loop hydroponics system, there is no wastewater runoff, and therefore no loss of nutrients. Steady access to water, nutrients, and oxygen supercharges plant growth. When plants are grown in soil, there is always some loss of water and nutrients, which slows plant growth.

Bigger plants!

The same control that enables faster growing plants also increases plant size. Because you control the water levels and nutrients, you can ensure that all your plants have the right nutrients to grow to larger sizes. In some instances, lettuces have grown 150% bigger than the same type of lettuce traditionally grown in soil.

Cabbage leaves grown hydroponically.
Our cabbage grown with hydroponics has grown a lot!
No weeding, fewer pests!

Hydroponics is lower maintenance than traditional farming and gardening. Because there is no soil, there is no space for weeds to grow, and no weeding is necessary to maintain your grow space. Your plants are better protected from pests when grown in an indoor hydroponics system. This reduces the time you will spend dealing with bugs, and enables you to avoid toxic chemical pesticides.

Year round growing!

In the right environment (such as an insulated Agrow Cube), you are no longer limited to certain growing seasons and can grow a wide variety of plants year round with a hydroponics system. This is possible because you control water, nutrients, light, and temperature.

Control over the growing process!

Having a hydroponics system at home is like playing scientist. You have control over the water in the irrigation system, the amount and type of nutrients, the intensity and length of the light, and, in the right environment, the temperature. You control how fast or slow you want your plants to grow, and you have ample opportunity to make changes that affect plant growth in real time.

Up next, how Agrow Cube combines a weather-resistant insulated box with hydroponics to create an easy-to-use growing space. To learn more about hydroponics, visit our website www.agrowcube.com and follow us on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.