Issue 42.2 April - June 2008
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Commercial Aeroponics: The Grow Anywhere Story

Optometrist Larry Forrest was an early investor with a pioneering aeroponic researcher named Rick Stoner and his company Agrihouse - www.agrihouse.com. Seeing plants grow in thin air on a very small scale led Dr. Forrest to want to see if he could grow plants via the aeroponic method on a large, commercial scale. (The best information on growing plants via aeroponics is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroponics. Most of this site was populated by Mr. Stoner mentioned above.)

This desire, coupled with the knowledge that microgreens were a sought after item for chefs, made garnishment plants the perfect candidate for an entrepreneurial venture. (See attached pictures and picture description below of the aeroponic growing method.)

With that as his goal, he started Grow Anywhere in mid-2005. The first year was filled with "growing pains" - literally. "We killed a lot of plants in that first year," recalls Dr. Forrest. Without soil, plants need moisture about every 20 minutes or they die. So, the eye doctor had to become a hydro engineer to make sure the irrigation system would not only work but work consistently. Another of the unforeseen tribulations was the negatives of a water intensive business in a warehouse. "A couple of times we had floods that crept under our party walls and into the neighbors units. Needless to say, they were not happy," recounts Forrest. The high humidity produced by the requisite misting also displeased fellow tenants as their windows quickly fogged in the winter months. Refining the system of providing correctly balanced water pH also required a lot of persistence and ingenuity.

The rewards of all this innovative struggle became apparent when Grow Anywhere began dropping off microgreen samples to local chefs. "Often chefs would become customers with their first sample," says Forrest. The key with microgreens is taste, and the aeroponic growing method produces superior tasting greens. "Chefs also tell us our greens stand up to heat better than any microgreens they've seen before. They don't wilt on a hot dish or entrée," Forrest comments. The shelf life tends to exceed that of soil grown garnishments. Another important quality of microgreens for chefs is the look and texture of the plant. "Our plants get high marks in the physical characteristic category," said Forrest. "It makes sense because our greens are simply cut and placed in the plastic container for distribution. If we were growing these in soil, we'd have to handle and clean the greens, which just ups the chances we'd damage the plants."

Grow Anywhere has received a full food safety audit. Next up is to get organic certification. Having already met all the criteria to become organically certified, Forrest said it was just a matter of filling out the paperwork and paying the fee.

For Dr. Forrest, the first goal was growing a great product aeroponically on a commercial scale. With that objective met, the focus now turns to marketing and distribution.

Surprisingly, Dr. Forrest is more than willing to help other chefs or entrepreneurs set up their own "farms" in major cities around the US or internationally. This might bode very well for chefs as a real trend in restaurants is to control supply by growing and raising the ingredients that go into their menu items.


To interview Dr. Larry Forrest you may contact him at the following:
Email: larryforrest@comcast.net
Phone: (303) 434-7157

Rows of different microgreens being grown aeroponically

Owner and founder Larry Forrest checking on his crops

Larry Forrest displaying the roots of the plants that are growing in the air.

Beautiful lush crop right before harvest

Submitted by: damon@grow-anywhere.com



Medicinal plant industry evolving in Jamaica

Sylvia Mitchell and her team are doing their best to develop the medicinal plant industry in Jamaica. Her students are researching the topics shown below and have presented posters and oral presentations at professional conferences and these posters are being used in Dr. Mitchell's outreach programs. For further information on any of these, please contact Sylvia at sylvia.mitchell@uwimona.edu.jm.

This was an abstract presented as a poster of an undergrad project:

Delahaye C.M., Mitchell S.A. and M.H. Ahmad (2008) Efficacy of various garlic (Allium sativum) products against a bacterium (Bacillus megaterium) and a fungi (Aspergillus niger). Proceedings of the Eighth Conference of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, Mona, Jamaica, February 26-28, P35, pg 47-8.

These are graduate student abstracts that were presented as posters:

Delahaye C., Mitchell S.A. and M.H. Ahmad (2008) Water and alcoholic extracts of 18 plants used in Jamaica's folkloric medicine exhibit antimicrobial properties against Bacillus megaterum and Aspergillus niger. Proceedings of the Eighth Conference of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, Mona, Jamaica, February 26-28, P31, pg 44

Francis T.K., Mitchell S.A. and M.H. Ahmad (2008) Multiplication of sarsaparilla (Smilax regelii) under micropropagation conditions using various benzylaminopurine (BAP) and indole butyric acid (IBA) concentrations. Proceedings of the Eighth Conference of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, Mona, Jamaica, February 26-28, P32, pg 45

Jagnarine R., Mitchell S.A. and M.H. Ahmad (2008) Initiation of aloe (Aloe vera) into tissue culture via the method of micropropagation using various explants types and benzylaminopurine (BAP) concentrations. Proceedings of the Eighth Conference of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, Mona, Jamaica, February 26-28, P34, pg 47

Green C.E., Mitchell S.A. and M.H. Ahmad (2008) The development of an HPTLC method to chemically fingerprint the polyphenolic compound, curcumin ((E,E)-1,7-bis-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione in Jamaican turmeric (Curcuma longa). Proceedings of the Eighth Conference of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, Mona, Jamaica, February 26-28, P38, pg 50-51

Denton E., Mitchell S.A. and M.H. Ahmad (2008) Challenges encountered while initiating medicinal plants into tissue culture conditions: Case study of cerasee (Momordica charantia) and spirit weed (Eryngium foetidum). Proceedings of the Eighth Conference of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, Mona, Jamaica, February 26-28, P39, pg 51-52

Simmonds R.., Mitchell S.A. and M.H. Ahmad (2008) The effects of storage and pre-storage conditions on the sprouting time and weight loss of turmeric (Curcuma longa) rhizomes stored under different conditions of light and temperature. Proceedings of the Eighth Conference of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, Mona, Jamaica, February 26-28, P42, pg 54


Mitchell S., R. Jagnarine, C.M. Delahaye, C.E. Green, T.K. Francis, E. Denton, R.N. Simmonds, S.M. Mohansingh and M.H. Ahmad. Using biotechnology in the tech transfer process: the mineral, microbial, and biochemical analysis of field-grown micropropagated medicinal plants for the production of unique monographs. Proceedings of the Eighth Conference of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, Mona, Jamaica, February 26-28, P40, pg 52-53

This was an oral presentation by a graduate student:

Simmonds R..N., Mitchell S.A. and M.H. Ahmad (2008) Sterilization and micropropagation of Jamaican turmeric using rhizome sprouts. Proceedings of the Eighth Conference of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences, Mona, Jamaica, February 26-28, O17.


Dr. Mitchell and her team also have a paper coming out in our own In Vitro Plant:

Webster S.A., Mitchell S.A., Gallimore W., Williams L.A.D. and Ahmad M.H. (2007) Biosynthesis of Dibenzyl Trisulphide (DTS) from somatic embryos and rhizogenous/embryogenic callus derived from Guinea Hen Weed (Petiveria alliacea L.) leaf explants. In Vitro Cell. Dev. Biol. (due to be in March-April edition).

Submitted by Sylvia A. Mitchell

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