VIDEO: Crowd-funding helps greenhouse adopt hydroponics

BRUDERHEIM, Alta. — An Alberta ornamental plant greenhouse operator has received crowd funding of almost $30,000 to help diversify into vegetables.

Nadine Stielow, owner of Thiel’s Greenhouses in Bruderheim, Alta., raised the money through the Alberta Treasury Branch’s BoostR program, a platform that encourages the public to fund ideas developed by local entrepreneurs.

Stielow said the funds will build a new hydroponic system to feed lettuce and other greens.

“I could have filled it up with more flowers, but I wanted a sustainable business model,” she said. “Food is where it’s at. Everyone is suspect of where our food comes from, so to have another local source I figure I can’t go wrong.”

The hydroponic system will consist of ponds connected to a water source. Floating on top of them will be rafts of greens, their roots submerged.

Stielow said the greens will be transferred from one pond to the next as they grow.

“We’ll start seeding at one end and then transfer them to the next as they grow,” she said. “They’ll come out the end when it’s time for harvest.”

She said she expects to get about 1,300 to 1,500 heads of lettuce each week. She plans to sell them to suppliers and directly to consumers through a farmers market she hopes to start.

“I have the space to host a market and there are people in my network who are quite interested in helping out with it,” she said. “There’s really nothing in this area so I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Stielow said she won’t spray her greens with chemicals and instead plans to use a bio control, where good bugs are used to hunt the harmful ones.

“I did that with my seasonal ornamental crop and I’m happy to say not one chemical went on to them,” she said. “It can be hard to do bio control with greens, but there has to be someone in the world with success. Maybe that could be me.”

She said the experience, from the launch of the funding campaign to construction of the lettuce operation, has been humbling.

“I’m so grateful for all the people who jumped into it,” she said. “While it’s my name and face on everything, my family and friends and everyone have been so helpful.”

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