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.
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.
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!