Vegetable farming goes high tech

Mike Phelan examines one of his young cucumber plants. As the plants grow, they will be trained to follow guide wires towards the ceiling. Planter boxes contain perlite (an amorphous volcanic glass) that provides a growing medium for the soil-less grown hydroponic vegetables. Because cucumber and tomato plants thrive in warmer temperatures, this bay will eventually be curtained off. -Ogden Reporter photos

Hydroponics requires precise monitoring of nutrients and fertilizer fed into the water from the blue barrels. An insect exclusion area keeps insects from being sucked in through the vents installed along the back wall. -Ogden Reporter photos

From the outside, the structure located at 268 280th Street near Berkley resembles a typical greenhouse. Inside, it tells a different story. This high-tech hydroponic vegetable growing business, Beaver Creek Produce, was a bold investment by brothers Mike and Tim Phelan.

“I always had an interest in gardening and locally grown foods,” said Mike, “and this was an opportunity to capitalize on the locally grown movement.” And the business was a good complement for the off-season (Mike and Tim  raise corn and soybeans on the family farm along county road E57.) Late last summer they set aside a small portion of one field for their new venture.

Mike compares their year-round gardening business to dairy farming. “I told my wife I’ll never be going on vacation again.” Although said in a joking manner, he fully understands the full-time commitment required in running this type of operation.  

Hydroponics, a soil-less form of indoor farming where the plants are fed directly through water, needs constant monitoring. There are no planting and harvesting seasons.

Beaver Creek Produce has already produced its first crop of lettuce. “Lettuce,” says Phelan provides the greatest marketing opportunity for us with tomatoes a close second.” Their cucumbers, peppers and herbs have gotten off to a good start. 

 

For the complete story, see this week's issue of The Ogden Reporter.