Monthly Archives: June 2010

What the hell is this?

I found it yesterday when I was inspecting the unit when I got home. It seems to be some kind of fungal growth.

I cleared it out, but I’m wondering if it is because that grow tank has too much water flowing through it. I get that feeling from looking at them because one side looks dry on top while the other looks constantly wet. Take a look at this side by side comparison.


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This is the kind of building I’m talking about….

It’s 3 acres of square footage on Park near 73rd in New York. It probably requires a fair amount of renovation, but for growing food I think they could be minimal compared to converting it to a fresh office space. The walls would get knocked down, new lights hung, etc etc, but for that price in NY that’s kind of a steal for a building this size.

The commercial lighting costs would be a fair amount more in a space like that. Right now, the average price for NY power is $0.16 per kilowatt hour. Compare that to Michigan with a $0.10 an hour and you can see why what would be grown in these areas would be very important.

My cousin Jessy, for those that don’t know her, just suggested that all the high end restaurants in NY would love to shop at a place like this because of the freshness and location.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to the kind of building I’m looking for, check out the business plan overview page to get a refresher. I’m adding this building to the

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Water Hardness, growth and harvesting (a bit) updates

Water Hardness

As you can see, the hardness less looks like it’s slipped again a bit. I think it’s because of a lack of clam shells, probably because they have been eroded by the running water. This is what I was expecting, just not quite so soon. I added some more to the media bags.



As you can see from the above photo comparison, one of the peas in the net pot has been growing pretty well over the last two weeks. The other one just didn’t grow at all. I cracked it open to take a look and it looks like it just didn’t take.

I replaced it with just a seed in the gravel like I’ve done with the others. Here’s a photo of the area at Day One.

Lettuce – Scattered

I added some scattered lettuce seeds where I harvested lettuce before I left for a few days. Here’s a photo of the growth.

You can just see it’s head poking out, but it’s growing.

Lettuce – Roots

Max harvested some Bib lettuce the other day and left the roots in. I’m going to leave it for a few days and see if it starts to regrow. With little experience in how food is grown and the thought that most food is just ripped from the ground with modern industrial agriculture I’m hoping it grows back. Again, NFI what I’m doing.


This is the photo of the net pot radishes. They’re growing a bit better than the ones I scattered, but I think that has to do with the depth of the scattered seeds. In any case, I planted on the 7th, it germinates in 4 – 7 days and then is harvested 22 days later. That’s based on the assumption that “days to harvest” does not include the germination period. That means I should be harvesting July 6th. Gotta put all this kind of stuff into a spreadsheet.


I’m getting nothing out of the Spinach. I cracked open the net pots and there was nothing going on with the seeds. So I did the “poke finger into the rocks” and planted some seeds.

Ok, that should be it for now. I’m off to New Orleans in the AM or the Tall Convention happening this weekend. I’m excited though to see what the growth will look like come Sunday night.

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Spreadsheet and Page Addition

I sat down again to do some work on the spreadsheet that I have been putting together to optimize the costs. I found another spreadsheet that has an average breakdown of the cost per kilowatt hour on a state by state basis. It’s pretty neat. I’ve set it up based on the equipment I’m using right now, but it’ll be easy enough to transfer that info over for evaluation when I need to figure out the costs for a larger operation. Below is a screenshot of the top part of it.

I you click on the image, you can see the cost to run the system at an industrial price in NY would be roughly $86 for the year. My next step is to figure out how much that cost means in terms of square footage and yield. I’ll be working on some estimates over the next few weeks as I plug in the estimated growth time for the plants. That obviously might differ from reality, but it’ll be a good estimate to start with.

Page Addition
If you check the top of the blog you’ll see I’ve added a page. It’s a Business Plan Overview of the business idea. Please take a look and add whatever comments you need to on the page.

I’ll be updating on water hardness tomorrow when I get back from my job interview. I missed a few days, but the fish seem happy and the plants are growing well.

And tomorrow I’m having lunch with Bill. Hopefully we can get the timer issue figured out and the 8 hours of operation that are actually listed in the screencap above can become true as opposed to wishful thinking.

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Hardness update

The clamshells seem to be working pretty well so far. Here’s the latest update.

I’m having lunch with Bill next week to hopefully get the timer issue dealt with. I also ate more of the lettuce, which was really good. I threw some more lettuce seeds into the recently empty space from the harvested lettuce area. I’m hoping it goes as well as the radishes, which are doing really well.

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Also, some growth notes

The radishes seem to be growing like gang busters. Tomorrow it will have been a week since I planted.

Radish growth = awesome 


The Spinach on the other hand, hasn’t moved. At all. This could be because the environment isn’t what they want it to be or simply I buried them to deep. Tomorrow I’ll probably end up replanting because they seem to be going nowhere.

Spinach growth = sucky

Snow Peas
Of the snow peas I planted, one seems to be doing well. I think it has to do with the fact that the seam along which the seed sprouts was facing up while the other was down. I believe this also because the netpot puts pressure on the sides, which might impede the seed form sprouting. Here’s a photo. You tell me what you think. 


Everything Else
Everything that was planted prior is doing relatively ok. The cucumbers aren’t yielding squate, so I’m debating just clearing them out and growing something else. The did bloom, which makes me think they need bees to actually sprout real cucumbers, but I have no idea. I’ll give them a bit longer then I’ll yank them. 

F-ing Cucumbers. Yield me some produce damn it!

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Hardness, Radish Roots & Piping

Water Hardness
The system seems to have mellowed out in terms of it’s chemical make up. I used to have trouble with the alkalinity being too high and there being almost too much nitrate and nitrites in the water, but they seem to have disappeared with the new goldfish. I think this has to do with the fact that what I had in it before was feeder fish, not decent sized goldfish.

There seems to be a new issue that the alkaline levels have dropped to almost nothing, but Goldfish are so alkaline anyway I don’t know how big a deal that is.

Other than that, the bigger problem is I’m still having is water hardness. Right now, it’s way too soft. It says on the testing bottle that it’s recommended to have a hardness of 50 to 100 and right now I think I’m closer to zero. (My strips only say “this color = 0-50” so???)

The limestone is what I initially ordered to take care of it, but the pet store guy said that would take forever to filter into the system. What he suggested is to use clam shell chips, picture below.

Worst oatmeal ever

I rinsed them then put little piles under neath the water spigots that feed to the grow beds. He said that having them over flowing water would work best.

I put some in a media bag and some free around the outside to see what happens.

I’m going to test the water daily as I play with how much of the clam shells I should have in there. I really want to get one of those fancy meters that tests the water chemical levels constantly, but that will have to wait till I get a new job.

Radish Roots
Something interesting is happening with some of the radish seeds I sprinkled on top of the rocks. The roots are just growing out into nowhere right on top of the rocks like plants on a rocky hillside near the ocean. Interesting.

As for the piping, it’s all installed and ready to go. According to the guy at Urban Farmer where I buy most of my parts now the gate valve I got will help to better control the exact flow of the water, so I can set a better time limit until we get the fancy timer working. I’m a little concerned because I can here the motor having to pump harder because of the restricted flow but once the timer is in I won’t have to restrict at all.

It goes almost all the way to the bottom of the flood tank so you really only hear the water when it flushes the grow beds.

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