GREAT BEND, Kansas – Since Rita Taylor co-founded Four Star Hydroponics in 1999, her company hasn’t had to battle Mother Nature to grow heirloom tomatoes, kale, basil and mint.
“I don’t have a drought,” says Taylor. “And the good news is, is we can control all the aspects of the environment.”
The company can grow up to 350,000 plants at a time, and some are harvested in as little as two weeks by using a water system instead of soil to nourish their crops, which provides a consistent environment.
“The nutrients go in that end of the trough system, and they come back to this end, this pipe right here, is carrying all of the nutrients back to the greenhouse, so it goes into a tank, it’s filtered, and it’s re-circulated,” says Taylor.
Because the water re-circulates in all four of these greenhouses, over the course of a year it uses a little over 800,000 gallons of water which is less than a city pool uses over a summer.
We can grow 25 times the amount of plants in this small facility than we could grow outside, but we would only use a quarter of the water,” said Taylor.
The farm already distributes to Dillon’s stores and will start to send produce to Walmart soon.
A growing business for Rita, but one she thinks will be farming choice of the future.
“I’m considered a farmer, but it’s alternative agriculture and I think you’re going to see so much more of that in the future with our water problems.”