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Home Grown: Advances in Hydroponics Could Reduce Dependence on Oil

Plants that grow in hydroponic modules grow under LED lights that optimize photosynthesis. Through this process plants take half the time to grow and are not dependent on outside conditions. © 2014 Nicole Griffin

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Farm-in-a-Box

Hydroponics experts reveal how Syracuse farmers could soon grow produce all winter long

By Nicole Griffin Syracuse, N.Y (NCC News)– Oranges, cucumbers and lettuce are not familiar sights on farms in upstate New York. Most of the produce found in local grocery stores is shipped from miles and miles away, using barrels of oil during the process. However, companies like Syracuse-based Ponix, are developing hydroponics technology that could reduce dependence on oil by slashing transportation costs.

Hydroponics is the science of growing food without soil. Plants grown hydroponically are part of a closed system, where there is very little waste since resources like water are reused throughout the process. New advancements have made this method of growing more efficient and extremely portable, which could potentially change how populations in colder climates get their food, said Marcus Baron, the architect behind Ponix.

“In northeastern climates like Syracuse, we only have one growing season,” said Baron. “So ninety percent of our lettuce comes from California, our herbs from Pakistan and Argentina.”

Using new modular technology, cities like Syracuse can start growing the produce that they usually have shipped in from hundreds of miles away.

“You can move your operations closer to your market which saves a huge amount of transportation costs,” said Robert LaGasse, of the Progressive Farming Trade Association.

By moving the crops closer to the dining room table, it makes the growing process much more simple and requires a fraction of the oil.

“It’s this super long distribution line that’s been built up over the last 150 years that’s only been allowed in the sense that oil has been so cheap and available,” said Baron.  “And as oil dries up now, there has to be another way to look at it.”

 

 

New technologies are spreading to local stores making hydroponics easy for home growers to try out © 2014 Nicole Griffin