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Big Guns Coffee Farm

 

What is Hydroponic Coffee?

At its most basic level, Big Guns Coffee Farms hydroponic Coffee Plants are grown in a nutrient solution rather than soil right here North Carolina. Instead of the roots growing down into dirt and gaining nutrients that way, in a hydroponic system, the roots grow into a liquid solution that is fortified with all the essential nutrients for healthy Coffee plants.

While it is possible to grow Coffee plants hydroponically outside, our hydroponic Coffee plants are grown in greenhouses right here in North Carolina. This a first of it kind Coffee Farming.  The United States is the second largest importer of Coffee in the world with suppliers that include Brazil (30 percent), Colombia (19 percent), Vietnam (10 percent), and Honduras (7 percent). One of our long term visions for Big Guns Coffee's is is to export North Carolina Hydroponic Grown Coffee to the world.

Hydroponics History?

To fully answer the question of “What is Big Guns Coffee hydroponic farming?” we need to take a look at its surprisingly colorful history, which can be divided into ancient and modern.

Ancient History

While they may not have known the science behind it, ancient people figured out that you could grow hydroponic plants without the use of soil.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is perhaps one of the earliest examples of a hydroponic system. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, it’s often cited as being the first known use of hydroponics to grow plants. Around 600 B.C. near modern day Baghdad in Iraq, the Gardens were said to have existed along the Euphrates River, although it’s likely they were made from terraces rather than anything hanging.

However, the use of hydroponics in these ancient gardens has been disputed. It should also be noted that the existence of the Gardens themselves is also disputed.

Other ancient growing techniques that definitely existed, but that are only hydroponic-adjacent, include the floating gardens of Mesoamerica in the 1100s, called Chinampas, and similar floating gardens in ancient China that were described by famed explorer Marco Polo in the 1300s (although they likely existed long before that).

 

The Chinampas, which were built in shallow lakes, consisted of areas of about 300 by 26 ft with underwater “fences” made of dead reeds that had been interwoven. The enclosed spaces were filled with a unique growing medium: alternating layers of rock, aquatic vegetation, natural waste, and lake bottom soil.

While not truly hydroponic, the Chinampas and floating gardens of ancient China can be considered a distant relative of hydroponics.

Modern History

Jumping ahead a few hundred years, the first known published work to discuss a hydroponic system (growing plants without the use of soil) was Sylva Sylvarum, or, A Natural History in Ten Centuries by Francis Bacon and William Rawley, published in 1626.

Also in the 1600s, Belgian scientist Jan Baptista van Helmont conducted an experiment that demonstrated plants did not gain mass from soil, as many assumed at the time. He planted a five-pound willow tree in a growing medium of 200 pounds of dry soil. Over a five year period, he only added rain or distilled water into the pot, and after five years he weighed both the plant and the soil again. Van Helmont found that the tree then weighed 169 pounds while the weight of the soil only decreased by two ounces.

While van Helmont believed his experiment showed plants gained mass through water culture alone, English physician John Woodward published a scientific paper about his own experiments in 1699 that showed plants required more than just water as a growing medium to thrive.

In his experiments, Woodward grew spearmint using various types of water culture—from completely pure to water collected from the Thames River. He found that plants grown in less pure water grew better than ones in purer water, thus concluding that they required more than just water to grow.

Jumping ahead another century or so, German scientists Julius von Sachs and Wilhelm Knop developed nutrient solution recipes in the 1860s and helped identify the necessary nutrients plants need to grow.

Another leap forward brings us to the 1930s and we finally get to the word “hydroponic,” stemming from the Greek words for “water” and “labor.” William Frederick Gericke, a plant physiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, coined the term, and this is where the history gets a bit colorful.

Gericke researched the growing of plants using only a nutrient solution, and he actually grew his own crops for personal use with the method. This was widely reported by books, newspapers and magazines at the time, which all hailed it as a revolution in agriculture. The University of California was besieged by requests from the general public to give them information on this new hydroponic growing method.

However, because Gericke researched hydroponics on his own time rather than as part of his job, he did not feel obligated to share his nutrient formulas or methods with his employers or the general public for free. This angered his employers at the University and they, in turn, appointed two of their top scientists to study hydroponics and write an information bulletin for the general public.

Gericke eventually left the University and wrote a book about his hydroponic growing methods.

Meanwhile, the secret was officially out and hydroponics evolved from there into its modern form (or, technically, several modern forms as described below).

How Does Big Guns Coffee Farm Hydroponics Work?

As the root of the word “hydroponics” implies, the water (hydro) does the work or labor (ponos) in hydroponic gardening.

To grow, Coffee plants need a few essential ingredients: light, carbon dioxide (which they usually get from general air flow in their environment), water, and nutrients. In traditional Coffee Farming, plants get the nutrients they need from soil.

In hydroponics, rather than plants absorbing nutrients from soil, they absorb those nutrients from a liquid nutrient solution, which is mixed in with the water.

Growing in soil can drastically affect a Coffee plant’s root architecture and its ability to produce food because nutrients may not be spread evenly throughout the soil.

On the other hand, growing in liquid solution guarantees that our Coffee plants’ roots all have consistent access to nutrients at all times, meaning their nutrient uptake and growth is more efficient. This causes our Coffee plants to grow quicker and larger than if they were grown in soil.

 

Big Guns Coffee Farm uses a Ebb and Flow Hydroponic System

In an ebb and flow hydroponic system, rather than having a continuous stream of water flowing over the roots, the Coffee plant roots are flooded with the nutrient/water mixture. The water is continuously emptied back into the reservoir to be reused.

                                                                                    

Hydroponics vs Soil – What are the Advantages?

As mentioned previously, growing Coffee plants in a liquid nutrient solution affects the root architecture of plants, causing them to grow more efficiently than in soil. This is the most obvious advantage of Big Guns Coffee Farm's hydroponics system, but there are other advantages, as well.

Advantages:

Their unique nature gives Big Guns Coffee Farm's hydroponics systems an edge over traditional ways of growing Coffee.

More Plant Density

Because our plants aren't  stuck in dirt,  our plants can easily be moved as they grow. Our Hydroponic greenhouses have a room dedicated to germination and seedling production, so they can perform these preliminary steps before moving adult plants into the main growing area. 

Growing Coffee plants in liquid also decreases the area required for them to grow than if they were grown in soil, meaning more plants can be grown in the same amount of space.

 

Higher Crop Yields

It is common for Big Guns Coffee's hydroponic greenhouses to report higher yields and better quality produce than traditional growing operations. This is especially achievable  with the use of AI to monitor our plants.

Less Water Waste

In our hydroponics systems where the roots are encased in a closed trough, less water evaporates than in soil growing systems, meaning less water is wasted. In this regard, it is a closed system.

 

All our Coffee Plants are free from pesticides and herbicides, and our operation does not produce any fertilizer runoff, which is detrimental to local water supplies, local plant life and local wildlife.

The Coffee Fruit is purer and the surrounding area does not pay a heavy toll for the growing of it.

At Big Guns Coffee Farm, we are proud to continue the tradition of hydroponic farming while also looking for new ways to evolve the practice. Hydroponic Coffee farming allows for a unique method of growing food that uses space much more efficiently and provides healthier, more nutritious Coffee to more people.