Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Saskatoon Chef's' Tour - Stop #1

I rode the bus to school for twelve years. And I haven't been on a school bus since, until I joined the recent chefs' tour of food producing localities north of Saskatoon. It was a cloudless sky and in the countryside, harvest was in full swing. First stop, the Floating Gardens greenhouse at Osler.

The greenhouse is heated with a wood-burning boiler but the internal systems -- temperature, humidity, CO2, light, etc. -- are regulated automatically by computer.

Plants grow in a substrate of coconut core and are watered by an automatic drip system. In these ideal conditions, vegetables grow 6-8 times faster than if they were in a regular garden.

The owners, Chris and Rachel Buhler, demonstrate how the floating gardens will work in the future. Water from fish tanks will fertilize plants in floating trays. The plan is to raise tilapia -- 400 fish per week -- primarily for the restaurant market.

They produce a tremendous amount of vegetables -- including edible flowers. Currently, they sell 40% directly to restaurants/stores and 60% at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market.

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