Tech Tyfu innovators create vertical farms for homes.
Pioneers from Gwynedd and Anglesey have honed their engineering skills and creativity to create innovative “grow your own” systems suited for homes of any size.
The challenge to develop innovative domestic growing systems was set by Menter Môn’s Tech Tyfu project, to encourage interest in hydroponic growing as part of the project’s work supporting vertical farming in Gwynedd and Anglesey.
Dr Luke Tyler, who leads the project, explained “those who tackled the challenge began by pitching their idea to secure support and funding towards the purchase of components.
“The ‘Tech Tyfu Challenge’ encouraged local pioneers to develop their own vertical farming concepts in response to increasing interest in producing your own food,” said Luke. “It’s been amazing to watch the pioneers creating solutions for people to cultivate fresh nutritious food at their homes.”
Thorin Dhillon Peter (18) a gardener from Newborough took on the challenge over the last few months.
“The vertical farming hydroponic system I set up was based on the Kratky method, which involves suspending growing plants above a reservoir of nutrient rich water,” explained Thorin.
“I created a wooden frame and included aquatic pots to hold the plants. I
considered the spacing between the frame for the pots, in order to maximise root space and yield growth,” said Thorin.
“As I created an outdoor unit, I also used a Mylar polyester film in order to conceal the frame and prevent any light reaching the roots of the plants. The lettuce crops were planted in coir fibre which worked very well.”
“I can see this system working well for people to cultivate their own salad leaves or possibly strawberries in small spaces such as backyards.”
Thorin, a passionate grower also experimented with creating his own nutrient feed for the produce made from comfrey leaves and washed seaweed.
John Storey (43) from Bangor received support from Tech Tyfu to create his own indoor hydroponic unit. A technician at Arloesi Pontio Innovation, Bangor University’s FabLab and Innovation Centre, he believes that utilising hydroponics could be one way to address the complex challenges faced by food producers and distributors.
“Having had an interest in growing for some time, the project was the perfect excuse to trigger the development of a hydroponic unit. With Brexit looming, having fresh greenery on demand was appealing’.
His journey can be tracked via his Instagram page, ‘QuarterMetreFarm’.
“I started with a regular commercial shelving rack and installed LED lights. Adding Mylar reflectors also helped to keep the light in.” The unit carefully considers all aspects needed for a successful domestic vertical farming system, boasting an impressive lighting system, and is an ideal size to fit within most kitchens.
“I used readily available components to build the unit, so that it could be easily replicated by anyone else who wish to follow the same path,” he shared. “The electronics were fairly routine. It was the practicalities of propagating and growing that were the new challenges for me.”
Growing hydroponically is an effective way to grow indoors when space is limited, and keeping control of conditions to help the crops grow healthily. Thorin and John both demonstrated that vertical farming can be done on a micro scale all year round.
“Tech Tyfu is very much about innovating, and we have recently worked with Glynllifon Colleges who are also showcasing very exciting ideas,” said Luke. “The team at Glynllifon has recently been using loose cleaned wool as a growing medium to support crops of strawberries. We will report further on this work later in the year.”
Further support is available for more Gwynedd and Anglesey residents to respond to the Tech Tyfu challenge. Further information can be found at www.techtyfu.cymru or contacting Luke Tyler at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tech Tyfu will be recruiting new growers during January and February who are interested in piloting the project’s micro vertical farms during 2021.
TechTyfu has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.