As most Southwest Michigan farmers are done harvesting and preparing for winter, the fields at Artesian Farm in New Buffalo continue to produce fresh crops of lettuce, basil, and kale. Keith Kudla, chief financial officer at Artesian Farm, said they are able to do so through hydroponic farming.
“This little facility here will produce as much as eight to 10 acres of land outside,” Kudla said, adding that Artesian Farm grows its plants in 8,000 square feet of floor space, with shelves of trays stacked seven high. On a normal farm in the Midwest, Kudla said lettuce can be harvested once, maybe twice a year.
“We’re growing 365 days a year, so we’ll harvest 17 times a year off of one of these trays,” he said.
That is not to say hydroponic farming is easy. Kudla said they recently had to throw out a crop of basil due to an invasion of thrips, a common pest found in greenhouses. He said he ordered an army of ladybugs to take care of the invasion. “We have another 4,500 ladybugs coming in next week,” he said.
Kudla said the pH of the water has to be carefully monitored so it stays between 5.5 to 6.2, or there is trouble. “If you get outside of that range, the plants won’t grow because they can’t take up nutrients and they eventually die,” he said.
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