Greenhouse Design

The Agriculture Research Initiative, Inc. utilizes strawbale building techniques, hydroponics, and an Agam dehumidifier to create the proper environment for growing a variety of crops. This method uses less water and less money to build and grow. It’s the revolution of food that we need in today’s drought-ridden world, especially in the western United States.

Desktop viewing Vegetable Growers News

According to Vegetable Growers News, just one strawberry plant needs about 22 gallons of water per plant per season. The actual plant only uses 55% of this amount. The rest of the water is lost due to leaching, evaporation, inefficient watering systems, and inadequate access to daily water. That’s a lot of water wasted!

What if we could change the agricultural industry?

What if we could grow the same (or more) strawberries, and use less water? That’s what the Agriculture Research Initiative, Inc. is going to do, and not just with strawberries!

How it Works: Greenhouse Design

We’re using natural materials for our greenhouse design. It’s dirt cheap (literally), net zero, and insulated. Made from compressed straw bales with plaster on the inside and outside surfaces, these structures are more like brick buildings. Therefore, they can be climate controlled. Not only that but these buildings give off less harmful gases than standard buildings.

  • Energy efficient. Straw bales are compressed and therefore insulate better than traditional construction. That means less energy is needed for heating and cooling.
  • Climate controlled. The Agam dehumidifier provides constant climate control throughout the year.
  • Less cost. Because we’re using straw, there is significantly less cost to build our greenhouses. We also won’t have to wait for lumber supply chains to deliver; we can get straw more readily.

This design solves the biggest challenge our founder Tracie faced when he wanted to grow strawberries in Vernal, Utah. Because the growing season is short due to early and late frosts, he would lose 10-20 pounds of strawberries. He researched and found straw bale buildings, in particular greenhouses, could be the better option.

Strawberry orchard
Growing strawberries on the orchard

How it Works: Humidity and Temperature Control

Now that we have an efficient building design, the next question was how to control temperature, humidity, and water use. Each crop has different needs and depending on the weather outside, will also require temperature controls.

While he was working on the greenhouse design, Tracie began implementing hydroponics for his strawberries. Hydroponics uses water instead of soil to grow crops. This means farmers can grow food anywhere in the world, at any time of the year. The yield will be greater so more people can be fed. Now, you’re probably wondering why we’d grow our plants in water, especially in Utah, when there is a water shortage.

The answer is that hydroponics actually uses less water than traditional farming. We also don’t need land space as we can grow vertically using this method. Plants need only a fraction of the water given to them. Much of it is seeped back into the soil and evaporates.

What if we could reuse the water? That’s what Tracie is doing today with his hydroponically grown strawberries! He knows it works because he is using this method. Okay, but if the crop is grown in a greenhouse, how will it get water? It doesn’t rain in the greenhouse.

Combining hydroponic growing and a special Agam Dehumidifier, we will be able to recycle unused water and use it again! The dehumidifier will pull water from the air, water the plants, and cycle unused water back through the system. It’s a revolutionary way to grow food!

How it Works: No Pesticides

Our crops, including the infamous strawberries, are grown without the use of pesticides. The reason is that insects will not feed on plants that are in good health. This is why places like Hawaii have pesticide-free, sustainable rainforests; the plants are healthy and thriving. How do we know the plants are healthy? We use the Brix Scale.

The Brix Scale measures the amount of sugar in a plant. Ranging from 0-32%, healthy fruits and vegetables fall between 12 and 18%. If they have a four or five, they have a deficiency of a nutrient and are more likely to be eaten by insects.

Because we’re growing in a relatively controlled environment, we will be able to control many aspects, including root health, Brix number, and watering.

Harvested strawberries without pesticide.

BRIX Number and Pesticides

Chart for Brix number and pesticides