Steve Kube, Designer of Seymour HPG * November 10, 2021
Background: I began experimenting with hydroponic, or high-performance gardening in 1992. My early success with the techniques inspired me to continue to design, build, and experiment with different materials, different plant foods, growing techniques, etc., always to make the technology available to average people everywhere. My original vision required technology that didn't exist at the time, but recent advances in other fields along with other innovations not only make the vision attainable but expand on it in ways I couldn't have imagined when the journey began.
There are significant benefits to be had in making high-performance gardening much more broadly available than it currently is. The technology can reduce water use by 90% or more, cut fertilizer use by 60% or more, and can improve the flavor and nutritional values of food grown in the systems compared to growing in depleted soils.
However, large commercial hydroponic operations have limited crop selections that are usually bred for appearance rather than flavor or nutrition, and it's harvested early to survive long distribution channels. The result is low-quality food that spoils shortly after being purchased by the consumer, or even before it reaches the grocery store.
Medium-sized commercial hydroponic operations are usually located in or near big cities, so time to market is not usually an issue, but crop selection is even more limited, usually to leafy greens.
Consumer hydroponic systems, pioneered primarily by cannabis growers, tend to be costly, confusing, and clanky. Nevertheless, there are about 2,000 retail stores in the US catering to hydroponic hobbyists and the systems are used to grow high-quality plants that may sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars per pound. I believe this segment of the market is ready to blossom and bring the technology to average people in developed, as well as in developing countries to grow common fruits, vegetables that may sell for 2 dollars per pound or less, plus the systems will be able to grow cannabis herbs, medicinals, flowers and more.
I anticipate hydroponic hobbyists and other experienced growers will become evangelists for the product line and will educate others on best practices and they could get involved in setting up, monitoring systems, and helping others to get started.
In Japan, some strawberries sell for $50 each or more, and some cantaloupes sell for $300 and up. These are extremely high-quality fruit with intense flavor. This is the direction High-Performance Gardening is going. However, in some regions of the world hunger is a major concern. Seymour HPG addresses abundance and quality, to serve people from the base to the top of the economic pyramid.
In addition to requiring minimal inputs of water and fertilizer, produce grown in these systems can be hyper-local, harvested at peak ripeness, and peak nutrition, with minimal to zero transportation costs.
An average meal in the US travels 1,500 miles to the table.
Instead of growing in depleted soils, plants in these systems can be fed complete plant food with a full array of trace minerals and the selection of crops to be grown locally in the open air can be far greater than that of indoor grow operations, and can include just about any fruits, vegetables, aromatics, medicinals, herbs, flowers, and more that can be grown in a particular area.
Eating fresh produce, which is ~95% water, can be an important means of hydrating the body. This is particularly true in regions where water is scarce and or not suitable for drinking. A pint-sized cucumber or some other high water content fruit or vegetable would be better than a pint of water.
Our systems are simple enough for a child to set up and use, to grow a wide variety of plants at the same time, and harvest thousands of pounds per season in a typical backyard. The systems scale from smaller than a parking spot to larger than a football field, from personal, to community, and even commercial operations.
A simple Seymour HPG system requires only 18 Watts from an AC adapter and has battery backup, & solar power options. With simple controls for casual users, easy access to advanced controls, and wireless networking for advanced functionality. Some of the durable components could last 25 years or longer.
Since these are life-support systems and may be used where power is unreliable, we will provide cost-effective battery backup options. And if they are used off-grid they can use solar power. However, hundreds of millions of people have very reliable power supplies and won't need battery backup or solar panels, unless they just want to cut the cord.
By the end of WWII, 50% of households in the US grew 40% of the nations' produce in Victory Gardens in backyards, vacant lots, and on rooftops. This translates to a potential for something like 50 million Victory Gardens in the US today, and 1 billion worldwide. There's a lot of security and satisfaction in having a vegetable garden, but few among us have a patch of decent soil to work with, or the time for tilling, weeding, watering, fertilizing, etc.
The Trajectory of The Technology
1929 Modern Hydroponics got its start at UC Berkeley.
1940's Hydroponics was used on Pacific islands to help feed troops.
1960's Walt Disney included hydroponics in his plans for EPCOT, which is still a premier showcase of what can be done with hydroponics.
1970's & 80's Hydroponic hobby stores start opening, catering primarily to connoisseurs of cannabis.
1990's Commercial hydroponics grew rapidly, with at least one operation covering hundreds of acres under glass.
2000's Many hundreds of additional hydroponic hobby stores open in the US, but key technology is lacking for this to go mainstream.
2010's Technological advancements in unrelated fields, along with other innovations can be used to create hydroponic systems suitable for average people to grow thousands of pounds of food in a typical backyard.
Soon, tens of millions of average people could adopt this advanced growing technology in the way personal computers were adopted in the 1980s.