By KRISTIN FARLEY 6 News Anchor/Reporter
LENOIR CITY (WATE) - A Lenoir City couple is stocking store shelves with locally-grown produce, but they don't exactly own a farm.
Joel and Linda Townsend started their greenhouse operation, Greater Growth, last spring.
The greenhouse is filled with hearty greens. The veggies like red romaine, kale, and bok choy, float on 14 inches of water until they are ready for harvest.
Of course, the process is much more technical than that, as Joel explained.
"We plant directly into coconut core, which is a highly sustainable bi-product of coconut," he said. "After about three weeks they will develop nice roots to sustain through hydroponics process."
Once the small plants leave the propagation benches, they head to the main area where they are placed in rafts at one end of a lane.
Then the plants are pushed down the lane as new plants are introduced.
"Initially we put them very close together," Townsend explained. "They are very small, not much reach, they don't overshadow each other."
Seven days later the plants are spread out so they can get as much sunlight as they need.
What makes the greenhouse different from other hydroponics facilities, though, is that the Townsend have also integrated fish.
All of the water from fish tanks is used to feed the plants.
"We are a re-circulating environment," Joel noted. "The water that goes into the hydroponics comes out of our fish tanks and everything flows through gravitationally."
The process technically makes the operation an aquaponics greenhouse because it integrates the cultivation of vegetables and fish.
Joel and Linda also go to great lengths to keep the process organic. They don't use chemicals. They closely monitor any bug activity.
Rainwater is collected and used, even in an outdoor fountain.
Before visitors or workers walk into the greenhouse they must step on a mat to remove any pollutants or bugs from their feet.
You can find Greater Growth produce at the Knoxville Farmer's Market, Three Rivers Market and online.
The couple hopes to sell tilapia starting this fall at area Shrimp Dock locations.