Downtown business growing microgreens, spices sustainably using hydroponic system
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - This is not an outdoor field of crops, and you may have eaten these greens grown in one of the last places you'd expect: inside an old slaughterhouse in downtown Cincinnati.
"That's something that's a little different on our farm as opposed to other farms. We try to grow our crops in a context that is most appropriate for the plants in order to get the highest quality production but also the highest value so that we're able to create something that is truly unique," said Dan Divelbiss, the Chief Growing Officer of Waterfields, LLC.
While also using outdoor and greenhouse space, Waterfield's indoor crops are made through seeding up microgreens into trays, germinating them a few days, and growing them in a hydroponic grow system for a week to six weeks. Everything from radishes to basil to microherbs are produced here, year-round, and indoors.
Divelbiss explained, "We have some spicy and peppery flavors. We have some sweet flavors. We have some really brilliant colors that come out of here. It's a place where we are able to grow ingredients not just produce."
Waterfields is able to maximize the use of their space and increase yields in a shorter time by growing crops vertically.
"If we were growing outdoors, our trays would be shaded, and we wouldn't have the ability to go vertically. By having artificial light, we can light every level independently," said Divelbiss.
While there are many great advantages to harvesting plants inside, one of the biggest advantages is being able to control weather conditions, including temperature and the amount of moisture available to plants.
"We're able to control all aspects of temperature, humidity, light, and the nutrients that are available to the plants. As a result of that, not only do we get a consistent quality, but we also get a very high quality and flavorful product," explained Divelbiss.
Other aspects of sustainability in the business come from a gradual roll out of LED lighting - which boosts production amounts, lowers production times, and decreases energy use - and reduced transportation costs - which means restaurants get deliveries from local suppliers in minutes to hours instead of days. From seed to harvest, the rewards of this green business are coming to a table near you.
Divelbiss said, "When we bring something new to a chef, that's always a lot of fun. Because you work with creative people, you get to see their wheels start to turn right away on how they would use [our products], and that's very cool."