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Hydroponics and beyond: Digging in with gardenstead Ep. 9

Hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics: the science of growing without soil

In the latest episode of our podcast, Katie sits down with Brandon Hebor of Boreal Greens Co. — a cutting edge agribusiness — to talk about the many methods of growing without soil.

At Boreal Greens Co., Brandon uses sustainable vertical growing systems and hydroponics to produce high quality gourmet greens. And Brandon himself has been educating and speaking on the subject of soil-less growing for nearly ten years.

In other words, he knows what he’s talking about.

In their conversation, Katie and Brandon discuss hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics and bioponics — all the “-ponics”, as Brandon puts it. They even get into a discussion of the future of food and how hydroponics and alternative growing will be a part of that future.

It’s a fulsome conversation with some science involved. But, not to worry — Brandon has an impressive ability to break it all down in ways that are fully understandable to the less-science-inclined among us. We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did!

What is hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil (from the Greek: hydro ponos, which means “working water”). Traditionally, plants are started in a substrate like lava rock, coco coir, clay pellets or perlite. Alternatively, plants can also be started and grown in what’s called a plant plug, before they’re moved into the hydroponic system of growing in fertilized water.

In the episode, Brandon also describes other methods of growing without soil: aquaponics, aeroponics and bioponics.

Show notes

  • Katie and Brandon discuss Brandon’s journey to hydroponics (it all started in his parents’ kitchen, growing lettuce!)
  • Brandon discusses his early curiosity about hydroponics as a way for people to learn to grow self-sufficiently, and empower communities on a social level
  • Boreal Greens Co. is a seed to sale farming company that grew out of this curiosity and followed Brandon’s years of learning and educating others about the different ways to grow without soil for urban and remote communities
  • Hydroponics and other alternative methods of growing offer the possibility of developing a more resilient food system that can offset supply chain issues and create a way to supplement food supply at home
  • Hydroponics and soil-less growing technologies can help people grow what they want to eat — to control their own food supply
  • Katie asks Brandon to explain the difference between hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics
  • Table top home growing systems enter the discussion — like this one — and Brandon and Katie talk about how it seems you can buy them in so many places these days
  • Is hydroponics a viable route to self-sufficiency? Brandon’s take on this is that it offers a way for people to supplement their diets and food supply and give urban growers an opportunity that they might not have otherwise had to grow their own food
  • Brandon and his team have designed a home-grow hydroponics system that goes beyond the table top systems mentioned earlier in the show, Katie asks when that will be available
  • An Ikea-style flat pack system, the home-grow system will grow peppers, turnips, radishes and leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, lettuce, microgreens)
  • Brandon mentions that his company will be on the lookout for people to test the product at home! (Excited? Us too!)

We’ll be staying in touch with Brandon to find out when his home-grow unit will be available. Want to stay in the loop, too? Sign up for our newsletter if you haven’t already done so and we’ll keep you updated!

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