Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Fruit Production
TerraSphere, USDA to study strawberry growth


August 11, 2010
By Fruit & Vegetable

Topics

August
10, 2010, Boston, MA – TerraSphere Systems, LLC has entered into a co-operative
research agreement with the U.S. Department of Agricultures (USDA) for the
production of strawberry transplants using controlled environment fruit
production systems.

August
10, 2010, Boston, MA – TerraSphere Systems, LLC has entered into a cooperative
research agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) for the
production of strawberry transplants using controlled environment fruit
production systems.

The
study will utilize TerraSphere’s vertical farming system in conjunction with
strawberry transplant technology developed by the USDA’s Agriculture Research
Service (ARS)
, and will focus on expanding the cultivation and availability of
strawberries outside of the fruit’s typical one- to two-month growing season.

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The
objective of the collaboration is to evaluate the long-term performance of
strawberry transplants under the growth conditions of the vertical farming
system, and to develop methods to build and maintain the hardiness of
strawberry plants within a controlled environment. If the study is successful,
the combination of ARS’ strawberry transplant production technology and the
growing conditions of TerraSphere’s controlled environment would create the
first commercially viable solution for year-round strawberry growing.

Once
deployed on a commercial scale, it is expected that these new growing methods
would increase worldwide strawberry output, reducing prices and enabling the
agriculture industry to more effectively meet year-round consumer demand.

Despite
the popularity of strawberries, growth and seasonal availability is limited due
to the narrow environmental conditions in which the fruit can be grown.
TerraSphere’s design utilizes an indoor system, known as vertical farming, to
grow fresh fruits and vegetables on a year-round basis, irrespective of
location, external climate or other environmental factors. ARS has developed a
transplant propagation technique that increases out-of-season flowering
capacity for several strawberry varieties by as much as 400 per cent.

“We
believe the implications of this study could have a significant impact on
global agriculture, particularly with crops that have limited growing seasons,
and look forward to working with the ARS toward this goal,” said Mark Gildea,
CEO of TerraSphere Systems.

The
study is scheduled to commence in September 2010, when the first set of
strawberry transplants will be established within TerraSphere’s growing system.
In the spring of 2011, crops will be evaluated for reproductive development
traits, including the emergence of flower clusters and flower size. Fruit will
be harvested and weighed for size, and studied for symmetry. Plants will be
evaluated periodically for hardiness characteristics such as leaf number, crown
number, and leaf size.