Like The Matrix – for Plants

Geek Culture

I sometimes wonder whether my nature and gardening posts are a little too low-tech for GeekDad. Not this time. A couple weeks ago the boys and I took a mini-field trip to a local hydrofarm.  On a tiny family farm up a nearly impassable dirt (or mud) road on a secluded hilltop, we saw an operation that could not be more cutting edge.

Thousands of little pods of herbs were lined up in tubes that were continually flushed with a nutrient solution that was monitored by computer. The system analyzed the solution for pH and chemical balance and sterilized it with ultraviolet radiation. The angle of the rolling beds was carefully designed to maximize exposure to sunlight, and artificial light was added as needed (during off-peak hours, some generated by solar panels) to a predetermined level of moles per day. If anything was amiss, the system could notify the farmers, by phone, freeing them of the necessity of being on-site to farm. Every few weeks the herbs were harvested and a new crop of baby seedlings (germinated in the “prop room” under total controlled light and heat conditions) was laid in.


But it was the tomato greenhouse that got really scary. Here vines, each dozens of feet long, hung suspended from the ceiling by a plastic line on a reel. My first thought was that scene in Coma where Genevieve Bujold in her white lab coat walks in to see countless bodies dangling in (literally) suspended animation. Each tomato plant was rooted in small tub fed and drained by narrow tubes. As its stem grew, the plastic line was let out a little and the vine allowed to droop just above the floor. As the reels traveled on tracks across the ceiling the vines were wrapped around the rows.

To complete the analogy, of course, workers would come around at regular intervals to harvest the (reproductive) organs of each entity. Chilling.

To see our own, very low-tech, hydroveggie setup, go to Home Biology.

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