Earlier this year I had the opportunity to sit on a judging panel for Velocity Academy with Alex Tyink, Program Leader for Goodwill Grows. Velocity Academy is a project-based learning program at Shattuck Middle School in Neenah, designed to engage students who have a difficult time in regular classrooms.
Alex was working with the students on a garden project. I was impressed with this young man and his passion for indoor farming. Since that time, I’ve had an opportunity to learn a little bit more about Alex and one of his passions, growing plants with hydroponics. Through trial-and-error Alex has developed a patent-pending hydroponic Indoor Farming System that grows plants in air. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water sans soil.
Alex worked with Bassett Mechanical, a local full service mechanical contractor, to build a prototype made of stainless steel. Plants are gravity-fed water in a unit that stands 5 feet tall and has a grow light in the center. The unit itself fits in a space of about 12 square feet. Alex’s system is able to grow a crop in approximately 30 days. Bassett Mechanical donated the prototype unit that now sits at Goodwill of North Central Wisconsin office in Menasha.
Alex started a small consulting company called Fork Farms to share his knowledge and foster the creation of small farming systems. While Indoor Farming Systems are not a new concept, Alex’s idea and passion is certainly a leap forward in the development of effective solutions.
USA Today and the Appleton Post Crescent did a story on Alex’s invention last year.
Pat Clusman is the Chief Operating Officer at Innovationedge. Follow Pat on Twitter @pclusman