Friday, December 30, 2011

The Mobile Garden

As a young kid I was always fascinated with simplicity. Things came easy to my understanding as I saw completion to my concepts. A simple thing was taught to me at a young age. That thought created reality. The words taught were, Thought, word, deed. I was told by my mom that I could do anything that I put my mind too.

Fast forward 40+ years. I'm in a great relationship with a gal from Montana. Brilliant, beautiful and understanding. I coax her and her kids into helping do a garden project. We make a small hop to the beach and pick up surplus materials from a re-store named after my dad. As he contributed to the whole of the Habitat for Humanity program. The man built 13 homes with  sixty and seventy year old men. These crusty ole bastards could work circles around a young crew and there were only 6 of them at intermittent times. Anyway, back to the story.  We built these above ground gardens using 2x4's and painted interior mahogany closet doors. These lasted 2 years in the Western Washington wet climate. My girlfriend came up with idea that would spawn the Mobile Gardens. She liked the length, she like the height, she like that there were no bugs, slugs or cat poop in her gardens. Simply because these were set at a height of 40" above ground. Wow! No bending over too!
So she tells me what she'd like to see in a new version, a composite version. Since I have 28 years of aviation composites experience. I goad her a bit, telling her  that she needs to draw out what she wants in her new design. She struggles with this and points to the BBQ grill. Make it like that and put a lid on it.
Ok... so I have the general size in mind but I need to bring forward the roundness and foot supports of the grill into the shape of the base. No problem! So in a moment of enlightenment. I begin to film the mold process to a dear friend in Bakersfield CA.
I figured if I wrapped a sheet of particle board that I had purchased earlier with this notion of hers in mind. I would get the desired results using a very cost effective manner in tooling up a new product. I chose a 48"x30" flat table to wrap the plywood around and adhered it to the leg using 2) 2x4's and large C-clamps.
This would be its general size dimensionally. Since the plywood was bending beautifully around the table it afforded an elliptical bottom. I measured 2'x2' in a box at the elliptical and TDC of the round smooth bottom. I measured a 24" height from the top of the table to the underside of the plywood. I also took into account that 3/16" was the thickness of the plywood. Once this was stable, I added the feet and begin to wax the plywood. I used 2) different types of wax for this project p+a
ste and liquid wax. I mixed up the Gel-coat (GC)and started spraying black tooling gel over the wood. I sprayed up to30 mils of GC, rather thick, but I wanted performance out of this mold. The plywood would leave an imprint to the new black surface. Basically I gave myself enough paint to sand on and polish it.
After the curing and drying of the GC, I cut and laid up 5 layers of fiberglass onto the mold. Creating 1/4"mold thickness, then hot gluing 2 lb. foam over the laminates and covering with 2 more layers. I let it cure for 24 hrs before parting the two pieces. Now I had a direct female representation of a male part that I had wrapped over a table the day before.

So after a bit of cutting,sanding, and polishing, I had the base of what we would call The Mobile Garden. To me it looked like a U-shape with 4 indentations. End caps were needed next to hold soil or water based nutrients. The few things I designed along the way to sustain this design was joggles. They allowed same thickness pieces to nest  and made them modular.

Now we could trough these units into medium and large agriculture purposes. Regardez vous, If the unit can support say 600 lbs of solid weight, then the root mass can be substantive as well. The one thing during the design phase of this apparatus, was that I was being introduced, by providence or by chance. To the organic farmers of the region. From these folks I learned above ground was a form of controlled medium. Soil. Not all organic farmers are dirt specialists. One of them that I had met was proactive in soiless mediums with an emphasis on hydroponics. Prior to these pictures, we were funded by an investor who happens to own a worm farm. Imagine that. So now his customers were potentially our customers. I had been studying trends using the Inet or by talking with folks that had specific  duties to enrich their soils for next years production run. And this is how they did it. Composting using worms and applying teas made from worm castings. Hmmm. So you're telling me that all a plant needs is in the tea? "Yes" and this is what you spray on the soil to re-energize it with beneficial protozoa and bacteria? "Yes". From an organic farmer. Well obviously my mind went Scoobie Doo! I could, at that point, design a delivery system for massive root growth and quick turn around times for all crops as long as I had the proper light value to throw at the plants and I hadn't finished the end cap molds.

So by this time I had immersed myself into what ifs. I went haywire with various add-ons and used cotton fabric to make them look custom.

We brought this one to an ECO show in Olympia WA.

My fave, The Vanessa. The color of this cloth was spectacular.

The Eric.

Of course this was not the final configuration to these prototypes. I had something else in mind. As I had mentioned about worm teas earlier. With the help from one of the younger organic farmers who was a pioneering type o' fella. He showed me what he was doing with indoor gardening techniques of hydroponics. His favorite was drip irrigation and deep water culture. He had been using 5 gallon buckets and root baskets. He was hardcore chemical hydro guy for indoor applications but had swung to teas introduced into the nutrient stream. Claiming that he was trying to clean up the fact that he had to flush before harvest. For the sake of the story, I'll let you all know that he has successfully traded over to all worm casting tea and Ormus water as the full nutrient solution.

I had been getting info during this time that some folks had used both chemicals and tea introduced into the uptake stream. Well this was too much good stuff for the roots to take in, and started killing the plants. It had something to do with Ph values being too high or too low, also the nutrient stream was  too chunky. I mean to say the (PPM) parts per million were to great in counts and levels. "chunky". You see I was still defining the processes and had to be sure that all of them worked according to the people who we were marketing to.

It was early May and I was ready to test models using dirt.

I had planted zucchini and squash of different types. Using The Yelm Worm Farms castings product, Barefoot Soil in a 1-4 ratio Castings being the 1part. In roughly sixty days I started pulling fruit. In all I harvested 75 zukes and squash from two Mobile bases that I had combined into one 8 ft unit. This is a feature I had designed in from the beginning.

 This is a time photo dilation to results.

Of course I had a special name for this monster! The growth in the amended soil was miraculous. I had given more fruit away than we needed. The neighbors were happy to get trading stock from us. It also disarmed regular city folks by offering fresh produce for no better reason than to say hi.

So fast forward from summer 2011 to fall. I find myself in  San Diego. I've been hired to install 12 units for an indoor grow. Since all the data was in from the organic farmers and myself, the final piece to the puzzle was to find a long term cost effective means of lighting with a high lumen value. Well all of us know about (HID) Metal Halides and HP Sodium.  They are hot and give quite a boost to your bill. Their life span is limited to roughly200 days of nominal use. I'm sure some would say that I'm wrong on this and I'd say that you're to cheap. HIDs lose their effectiveness after so many days of burn time.

I did the research on other lights as well. I found the Florescent and LED's to be the right ticket. The reason behind it was zero heat signature, long life, minimal power, high lumen values and was ideal to combine them for hanging at indoor applications. Plus after I did the math I was getting 87500 lumens from 3 lights that bathed the plants at a radiant heat of 77 degrees.

As you can see I dare not turn on all the lights it would have creamed the filter in my camera.

We could only fit 10 units in this room.

 So we turned the other two units into 322 site cloners. A pure side affect. 644 total plants cloned in 10 days. Wo!

We added a 1065 gph pump to a 360 emitter array for root propagation.

Now with the advent of having a product that did it all, I'm looking into aquaponics using this unit. Why not?   More to come...

Well as stories go on a new project/product. Here it is February and all the pieces of putting this altogether are coming inline. As stated earlier there was a particular form of growing I was looking into. Like all conceptual thinkers/designers, we see things in their completion upon inception of idea. To bend, shape and form thoughts into organic or highly technical structures to perform a task. This is called creative.

I got a call the other day from a guy I hadn't spoke with in some time. Say 2 1/2 years. Anyway He had called me to ask If I was still doing anything with a composite yurt of my design yet and that he was permitted to build a fairly large warehouse. I told him funding for that large project was still allusive. So, he tells of what he's doing and that he may be able to help in some small way with buying 1 or 2, 30'diameter models and configure them into bunkhouses for an onsite construction crew. Also he may need up to 200 Mobile Gardens to litter the hillside with in Hawaii. He felt that parallel building  and growing organic food stocks would be the easiest way to pay the bills quickly. So as he described his vision, I conjured the thoughts of what this must all look like. Of course I saw hillside jungle flora with 50' lengths of Mobile Garden bases four abreast running up a slight slope. I saw the yurts and the crews using them. Lastly, I saw the warehouse being built on the site.

He told me he wanted to use aquaculture. Now I understood why the placement on a slope. I'm providing a link.   This also made perfect sense due to the almost perfect growing season(s) in Hawaii. I was a little dismayed at the lack of organic fruit being grown on the island itself. As my guy was was telling me that most of the food is shipped or flown in from the mainland. The prices also reflected this. So he thought to cover two bases at once. Since the Mobile Garden is composite, it can withstand the harsh sunlight environments longer than conventional plastics can. At this point the pumps, lines and plumbing are all proportionate to size and nutrient delivery. I told him about using a local worm farm and their castings to brew teas to use in conjunction with the fish poop from the tank at the base of the hillside. Pump it up and let it flow back into the tank below!

So now there are five application to growing organics from the Mobile Garden. This truly makes the Mobile Garden a unique apparatus in the home and commercial gardening and agriculture departments.

So lets recap.  The Mobile Garden uses all current light sources, it delivers all nutrients in soil and soiless mediums. ( Aero, hydro, hydroponic/DWC, soil/castings, and aquaponics). It's a large cloner at 322 sites/unit. It can be multi-configured to grow small on demand indoor rotational crops as well as be combined together for a continuous closed loop system for commercial/outdoor crops. In it's single configuration it can use a lift jack table on wheels to accommodate the elderly and handicapped folks. The longevity of this product is a minimum of 25 years and is for superior in structural strength and durability to plastics. It can also be fully recycled and one of my faves... it uses all easy to find, off the shelf components. Retailers will love it and the people who use it will swear by it!

 March is our chosen launch time for the Mobile Gardens. We will have a new website under our old domain and private server.  We invite you to use our partners products with ours or existing equipment being used. and  Thx for reading this blog.  Kev


  1. Awesome man! You're pioneering a new and better way to efficient gardening!

  2. This is great Kevin... way better than 55 Gallon drums cut in half... and it looks like a medical facility... simple and to the point... its perfect

  3. Amazing stuff Kevin...

  4. Finished with all the trimmins!