High-tech garden showing Tulsa ‘just what is possible’

By | April 4, 2023

Tulsa World


Planted inside a 40-foot shipping container, the hydroponic garden includes a set of surround-sound speakers. And William Woods likes to play oldies for the plants.

“It sounds kind of hippie-dippie,” Woods said Tuesday. But the results speak for themselves.

This new container garden, as an early phase of Food on the Move’s plan to build a full-scale “urban farm” in north Tulsa, is growing twice as much produce while using a third less electricity than the typical hydroponic operation, officials said.

The music, of course, can’t take all the credit. Woods and the rest of the Food on the Move crew have worked hard to find just the right mix of nutrients, hydration, lighting and temperature control to maximize efficiency.

“People think, ‘Well, this is an automated farm. You just do the seeding and come back and harvest in a few weeks,’” Wood said. “But you can’t take the human factor out of things. You still have to be a farmer. You still have to be involved.”

While the container garden has been in use for three months, officials didn’t officially cut the ribbon for it until Tuesday. Food on the Move launched the garden with help from Public Service Company of Oklahoma and EPRI, an independent nonprofit energy research and development institute that has piloted more than 20 container gardens across the United States.

The PSO/EPRI container garden uses LED technology, high-efficiency HVAC and recirculating water pumps to grow nutritious food year-round in a stable environment that is relatively free of bugs, eliminating the need for pesticides.

Food on the Move, founded by pop singer Taylor Hanson, plans to expand the operation into a $7.5 million farm that will use hydroponics and aquaponics technology to grow produce without soil, allowing it to operate inside a warehouse-style building the group will build near Tulsa Community College’s Northeast Campus.

“We’re growing food in amazing ways,” said Kevin Harper, CEO and president of Food On the Move. “We’re using 90% less water. We’re growing things 30% faster. Everything is organic. That is amazing.”

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