Hydroponics Market Gardening
Settled in the Gers since 2013, our main activity is market gardening. We produce heirloom vegetables, fresh herbs, edible flowers and microshoots using hydroponics and bioponics technics. We grow healthy and ecological plants that we sell to gourmet chefs in our region.
The idea of this pilot farm was to prove the economic profitability of a small structure working with quality over quantity.
We can now successfully make a living out of our gardening activity in our 650m2 greenhouse.
Our vision of market gardening
Our vision is all about quick turnaround : we harvest early in the morning and deliver to all our chefs before the midday service. Guests can enjoy fresh herbs that were harvested just a few hours before. In terms of taste and nutrients, it makes all the difference !
* Did you know that a lettuce for example loses 50% of its vitamin C content within 5 days after harvest ?
Our farm is above all our own food store. So naturally, we decided not to use any phytosanitary on our plants. We do not spray plants with chemicals or even with certified organic products. The only adjustment we make is the integration of predatory insects into the ecosystem of our hydroponic farm. (Learn more about the use of predatory insects).
In this greenhouse, which is an experimental space, we wanted to test what happens when we produce without “helping” our plants. As natural as possible. And it is surprising how plants help each other in a polyculture space. We have very few losses, and when a plant gets sick, it does not matter, we simply isolate it. In the end, these plants, that have never been treated, are nothing but stronger. And when we harvest our seeds we know that they have been very stimulated and will be more resistant from year to year !
Here are some of our little plants, for you to feast your eyes on ! And if you want to taste them, come visit our hydroponics farm !
Do not hesitate to contact us, if you are a chef and wish to have the complete catalog of our products.
ECOLOGICAL GROWING TECHNIQUE
If you have never heard of hydroponics then you may be skeptical, but we will try to explain… The principle is simple : it is to grow plants by replacing the soil with an inert substrate or with water. In the water, we will add mineral nutrients, organic matter and oxygen. The roots float happily in this water and can absorb easily all the ions that we put at their disposal. Everything works in closed circuit recirculated by a pump.
Here is a video taken in our greenhouse that explains all this (the video is in french but english subtitles are available) :
Since 2013, we have worked everyday on many aspects to make the commercialisation of hydroponics as ecological as possible. We are emphasizing on commercial hydroponics because it is very easy to do something sustainable on a domestic system. However, for hydroponics to develop, there is no secret : the ecological and environmentally friendly processes can’t impede the productivity. Indeed a company not profitable, even with the best values of the word, will not succeed. That’s the whole challenge !
– Soil pollution:
For years, for”hygiene” reasons (careful, this is a very controversial debate) the nutrient solution use to circulate in open circuit, meaning leaving the tank to feed the roots, and then going directly into the wild. This was causing a terrible mess and pollution of groundwater. The solution, too concentrated, imbalances the micro-bacterial life of the soil. Therefore, in our case, we recirculate non stop the solution in our system. Nothing is released in the nature and nothing is spoiled as the ions “wander” until they are absorbed. It also allows us to have EC concentrations (electroconductivity) much lower and to have a bacterial life in our system, our best ally!
– Energy balance:
We hardly use water, same for electricity. Indeed our experience has allowed us to put in place techniques to maintain a minimal electricity bill. We do not use lamps or heating… This remains greenhouse culture, but we consume 500 x less kW per m2 than in a greenhouse of tomatoes (yes, yes, we made the calculation!).
– Growing medium :
Instead of throwing away and redeeming everything, we have developed techniques to clean all our growing mediums without the use of chemicals. Then we reuse them all ! #zerowaste !
– Phytosanitary :
As mentionned before, we don’t treat our plants. No phytosanitary treatment, no organic treatment, no grandma’s magic potion. Nicolas is very strict about this ! Our experience is to let nature do without influencing it. You would be very surprised by the results, the losses are minimal and intrigue many market gardeners. The greenhouse is wide open and insects arrange between them. It is a fascinating sight to watch.
– Systems maintenance :
In traditional systems it is common to use hydrochloric acid or nitric acid to clean. Well, with us, as you can imagine, no chemical disinfection ! We clean everything with water and sun ! Of course, there are still things to improve but we are moving in the right direction and for us this is what is most important.