Feeding the Community Using Hydroponic Farming
by Michelle Bense
When former Marine Dennis Riling started farming in Pipersville a few years ago, he was raising chickens, goats and more vegetables than he could harvest and sell at his roadside stand. For help, Riling turned to Tim Sulzer—a fellow student at Delaware Valley College with experience in organic and conventional farming. Together, with a focus on developing more efficient growing methods, the two founded Veg-e Systems.
Veg-e Systems currently operates as a hydroponic growing, research, training and consulting facility in Doylestown. While hydroponically growing greens at their indoor farm—including Genovese basil and lettuce varieties such as Muir, Rhazes, Salanova green sweet crisp and red butter—Veg-e Systems also provides training and development services for businesses and community members working in hydroponic agriculture.
Traditionally, plants get their nutrients through soil, but in hydroponic farming, specific amounts of mineral-based nutrients are fed to the plants through water. Hydroponics—also known as controlled environment agriculture—gives food growers increased control over their production, enabling them to grow greens without herbicides or pesticides, while using about 95 percent less water than conventional farming.
As Chief Research Officer, Riling fulfills his passion for agriculture and technology by leading research in lighting, hydroponics, aquaponics, automation, robotics and vertical farming. “The future of hydroponics will be about utilizing more cubic footage versus square footage by integrating vertical growing systems,” Riling speculates. “Farming vertically is an efficient use of space, especially because of land availability and water issues we are starting to face.”
Veg-e Systems sells its fresh greens locally under the name Doylestown Fresh. They can be found at the Doylestown Food Co-op, None Such Farm Market, Organnons, the Crossroads Bake Shop and Kimberton Whole Foods.
With plans on expanding to two new production facilities this year, Veg-e Systems is not slowing in its quest to educate the community about hydroponic farming. “Down the road, we see Veg-e Systems as a major player in the vertical farming industry,” says Chief Systems Officer Sulzer, “whether through providing hydroponic growing systems or consulting on home-based and commercial applications.”
Veg-e Systems is located at 4030 Skyron Dr., Ste. F, Doylestown. Visits and tours are by appointment only. For more information, call 215-622-2199 or visit VegeSystems.com.
Michelle Bense is managing editor of Natural Awakenings BuxMont. Connect with her at Hello@NABuxMont.com. April 2014.