YouTube clips spark teen’s pas­sion for hy­dro­pon­ics

Central and North Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - GE­ORDI OF­FORD Ge­ordi.of­ford@ru­ral­

IT WAS an idea that grew from watch­ing videos on YouTube.

Af­ter eight months of re­search­ing and tri­alling, 17-year-old Digby Dun­bar and his Mad Greens brand took out the top prize at the first hackathon to be held in the Cen­tral High­lands.

His con­cept in­volved grow­ing mi­cro­greens and small veg­eta­bles in a con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment in­side ship­ping con­tain­ers and is look­ing to fran­chise it in the fu­ture.

“I was fol­low­ing a guy on YouTube who had a lot of videos about ur­ban farm­ing in cities and it re­ally sparked my in­ter­est,” he said.

“There aren’t many fresh greens avail­able in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and this will al­low peo­ple to have ac­cess to them with­out the food trav­el­ling hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres.”

Orig­i­nally the Emer­ald teen wanted to grow pro­duce in green­houses and/or shade­houses, where it would go on for use in restau­rants and be sold at mar­kets.

“There was a part of the event called pivot where we sat with men­tors to help move our prod­uct in a bet­ter di­rec­tion,” he said.

“In the ship­ping con­tain­ers there will be lots of shelv­ing and tech­nol­ogy to help mon­i­tor the hu­mid­ity, tem­per­a­ture, light and en­ergy con­sump­tion.”

Digby said he also wants to try us­ing hy­dro­ponic grow­ing meth­ods.

“Soil isn’t nec­es­sar­ily needed for the first seven days and I’ve re­cently found some trays that can do it,” he said.

“At the mo­ment I’m re­search­ing the best soil types and also the best sys­tem for grow­ing hy­dro­pon­i­cally.”

Digby took crops of al­falfa, toma­toes and herbs he had tri­alled un­der his grow­ing meth­ods to the event.

“The al­falfa was a lit­tle un­der de­vel­oped so I classed it as a failed trial so I can do some more re­search to find the best way to grow it,” he said.

“But de­spite that it looked re­ally good and did quite well.”

Re­cently he be­gan tri­alling red radishes.

“I kept them in the dark with high hu­mid­ity for about five days,” he said.

“Now they’re in the sun for about three days and they should be ready to har­vest by day seven or eight.”

Digby was en­tered into the com­pe­ti­tion by his mother.

“She just said ‘we’re go­ing to this event and I’ve en­tered you in it’,” he said.

“I’d been to a lot of ag events to see what dif­fer­ent ideas and prod­ucts where there but I’d never pitched my own idea.

“Go­ing into it I felt quite con­fi­dent in the prod­uct but I was a lit­tle ner­vous about speak­ing in front of ev­ery­one there.”

The win earned the young busi­ness­man $3000 in prizes and he said he is now work­ing to­wards fran­chis­ing his brand

in the fu­ture.

“There were a lot of other peo­ple there who had some great ideas,” he said.

“I’m pretty ex­cited and ner­vous but then again, who wouldn’t be?”

❝ At the mo­ment I’m re­search­ing the best soil types and also the best sys­tem for grow­ing hy­dro­pon­i­cally. — Digby Dun­bar

YOUNG GUN: Digby Dun­bar de­cided to grow mi­cro­greens af­ter watch­ing You Tube clips.

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