which the Biodome is quite popular.”
The Eden project, a popular visitor attraction in Cornwall, England, provided Colclough with the idea of using Ethylene Tetra Flouro Ethylene (ETFE), thin layers of thermoplastic which, when welded together, provide the optimum light conditions in moderate climates. The reflective index of ETFE is equivalent to glass, and superior to polyethylene. Tom Baumann, an
agricultural instructor at the University of the Fraser Valley who has been working with Colclough, says they are going to try out some different soft plastics as cover for the Biodome so that when B.C. experiences its major
earthquake, the structure won’t fall down — unlike conventional glass greenhouses.
Inside his Biodome in Surrey, Colclough is growing strawberries, 6,000 plants in containers stacked five high. The plants receive their water and all nutrients hydroponically, and are grown in a non-soil medium. Plant roots are periodically soaked in an oxygenated, water-based mixture containing a carefully selected blend of dissolved nutrients that provide precisely the right amount of nutritional elements needed for optimum growth.
path for me.
Baumann, who is also a director of the Pacific Berry Resource Centre, considers the Biodome to be “leading- edge technology.”
The climate-controlled, enclosed Biodome provides protection from insects, weather and accelerates plant growth. Colclough says he has noticed that the south-facing plants are actually doing better than the north- facing plants because of their extended exposure to the sun. Colclough is evaluating his crop of strawberries by measuring the energy consumption.
“I am not considering selling any of my crops commercially. I am looking at the rootstock because the health of the rootstock will determine how well, and how long, my crop of strawberries will produce. “I am into the third cycle now and one of the benefits of hydroponics is that you can examine the roots and you can determine what your biomass is so you can see the health of the crowns. It is an experiment, an ongoing experiment, and a learning
8 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2015
Baumann notes the Biodome’s vertical gardening concept means you can produce five times more than you could on the same amount of land if it were farmed in a conventional manner.
“Our planet is fast running out of food, potable water and agricultural land,” says Baumann.
“By 2050 we are supposed to feed a population of nine billion people on this planet. We’ve got desolate regions
Strawberries growing vertically with hydroponics in the first Biodome constructed on Tom Colclough’s property in Surrey.
where people are starving, and we have areas like Canada’s north where food is outrageously priced.” Baumann sees the potential for Biodomes in inner cities, on contaminated land, up north and in the desert.
“They need to come up with systems to provide food for all those people, as none currently exist.” Baumann is preparing a
presentation on the Biodome concept for an international audience in Australia in July. He anticipates a strong glass lobby will be present at the conference which he says will make it all the more challenging.
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