Photo Blog – Tour the Technology Center East Grow Rooms
Those that have been keeping up with our Plant Profile blog series have been provided with an inside look at how we produce crops here in our controlled environment grow rooms. However, we wanted to offer more than just a brief glimpse into our controlled growing environment and instead offer an all access pass to provide a better understanding of how we’ve converted former warehouse space into two 30′ wide by 72′ long, state of the art grow rooms.
As with any growing environment, there is always a risk of insect infestation. To help reduce the likelihood of crop-damaging insects, we have taken several precautions to both prevent insects and maintain an insect-free environment. One way we do this is with Insect Screening covering our evaporative cooling system, which prevents insects, such as Aphids, Whiteflys, Leafminers and more, from entering the growing environment through the evaporative cooling system. Our grow rooms are also only accessible by an airlock door entrance, which allows our grow room workers and tour members to enter and exit the facility without allowing insects in.
The airlock entrance contains three doors total, the main entrance, and a door for Grow Room 1 and Grow Room 2. To enter the grow rooms, you must first open the main entrance door, which leads to a small room with doors to Grow Rooms 1 and 2 on your left and right respectively. After passing through the main entrance, employees and tour members must close the door behind them, and then open the door to either Grow Room 1 or Grow Room 2. Once a grow room door is opened, a gust of air is released into the entryway, which is hardly noticeable to employees and tour members, but is strong enough to blow any invading insects away from the entrance.
Grow Room 1 – Lettuce Room
Grow Room 1 is better known as our lettuce room. This is where we house our Grow-Tek Commercial NFT GT50 & GT70 Hydroponic Systems. With the systems installed in Grow Room 1, our maximum production capability is 1,620 heads of lettuce, which would produce a harvest of 325 heads per day.
We mark each channel with notes, indicating the variety of lettuce and the date that it was transferred into the channel. This enables our grow room workers to harvest the lettuce at its peak and properly label each variety once it has been harvested.
Grow Room 1 isn’t just for lettuce, it’s also home to our Grow-Tek Vertical Aeroponic Hobby System. While we most often produce lettuce in this system, we have grown strawberries and other small fruiting crops in it as well.
You will also find a seed starting table, Propagation Float Station and a GT50 NFT Hydroponic System in the lettuce room. We use our GT50 System to produce fresh culinary herbs such as Cilantro, Basil and more.
Grow Room 2 – Fruiting Crops
Grow Room 2 is where we produce our fruiting crops, such as cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes and more. In this room, you will find several different systems, including four of our PolyMax® Dutch Bucket Systems, a system using our Grow-Tek NFT GT80 Hydroponic Channels, a Micro Dutch Bucket System, an Ebb and Flo System and one of our GT50 Vertical Lettuce and Herb Systems.
Our growing environments are kept at their ideal conditions by several different environmental controls, including an Evaporative Cooling System, Exhaust Fans, Circulation Fans, Metal Halide Light Fixtures and Energy-Efficient High Bay Light Fixtures. The most noticeable environmental controllers in our grow rooms are the two evaporative cooling systems, which measure 24′ long by 4′ high and help keep the environment cool and comfortable during the hot summer months. We keep Grow Room 1 at 75° F with 55% humidity, and Grow Room 2 is kept at 82.5° F with 60% humidity year-round.
If you are interested in not only seeing the Grow Rooms, but working in them, be sure to register for our Controlled Environment Agriculture School. We host a school here at Technology Center East every other month, and those who attend enjoy a tour of our Grow Rooms, as well as participating in numerous hands-on activities, such as harvesting, seeding, transplanting and more. Come experience the Grow Rooms for yourself and talk with our Grow Room experts at our next CEA School. For more information on our CEA Schools, or to register for our upcoming Connecticut school, please call Ashley Madore at 1.800.476.9715 x 1649.
Be sure to keep up with our blog during the upcoming weeks to tour the greenhouses at our Dyersville, Iowa. location.