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Eco Growing Systems: Simplicity That Can Feed Our Planet Featured

Growing food in an ecologically friendly way is going to be necessary for survival very soon. Growing food in an ecologically friendly way is going to be necessary for survival very soon.


Gene Nalbandian is as far from being a newbie to horticultural crop production as they come. However, taking on the global hydroponics market is a new challenge, which the veteran grower has come to embrace with open arms.

When asked why he has come out of retirement after 22 years of growing some of the finest and most prolific foliage, herbs and fruits produced in the United States, Nalbandian states, “Food prices continue rise, and even in developed countries we are beginning to see food shortages. Already, we have so much of our edible crops sprayed with damaging pesticides that become injurious to our health and the environment. To put it simply, it’s a calling I can’t ignore, especially given a lifetime of experience of raising healthy plants in all types of growing situations. The world of growing has given a lot to me, and I feel that now is the time to give that something back.”

That something is the Eco Growing System, a self-contained, self-watering plant container that uses capillary action and a well-aerated growing medium to continuously supply plants with optimal air-to-water ratios at the roots for continuous and healthy growth rates. The Eco Growing Pots that make up the system themselves are available in a very wide range of sizes, from one gallon to 15 gallons.

“In raising foliage plants, I learned the benefits of simplicity in production methods,” says Nalbandian of his shockingly obviously idea. “It seemed to me that this is what has been lacking in popularizing hydroponics production capabilities for food and medicine at the consumer level. Sure, there are some great growing systems out there, however, most people do not have that kind of cash or time to commit. Let’s face it, high-tech hydroponics can be very intimidating both in price and the expertise required when ultimately your goal is to grow some nutritious, pesticide-free food for your family.”

Like most great ideas, the Eco Growing System was developed looking at the organic processes in nature that have allowed plants to flourish for thousands of years. You might say that there is truly some magic in the way capillary action has been harnessed to ensure plant roots have constant access to water and nutrients, while maintaining a high degree of aeration. As all experienced growers know, while water and nutrients are important, the significance of having lots of air available to the root zone cannot be overlooked for healthy growth and bigger yields.

Such insights can only be culled from decades of experience cultivating plants. Nalbandian is a veteran who has grown plants in conjunction with the White House, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Cannes Film Festival, Disneyland Hotels (California and Florida), and many others, creating a list horticultural achievements too long for the scope of this feature.

Nalbandian is an expert, not just from the perspective of raising the healthiest specimens possible. More importantly, he realizes that growers must be able to raise these healthy plants consistently. Clearly, this is an obstacle often overlooked by some areas of the hydroponics industry when it comes to home growing systems. Nalbandian’s Eco Growing Systems may just be the ticket to an easier and more consistently successful growing experience for all skill levels.

“Our methods of growing using the Eco Pot concept have proven successful for hobbyists, experts, professionals, and even grandmasters alike, in a range of ornamental, fruit, vegetable and medicinal crops.”

Each Eco Pot has a built-in reservoir that sits in the bottom of the container. A specially designed insert separates the growing medium (like well-aerated coco coir) from the reserve of nutrient solution that sits below. The insert allows the growing medium to contact the nutrient solution at several points or “pillars,” providing the necessary wicking capacity without saturating the medium with water, which would starve plant roots of oxygen. The design comes as close to foolproof as possible for growers looking for effective automated watering systems.

Eco Growing System offers a soilless medium for the Grow Pot consisting of 30–40% washed coir (coco fiber), 15–20% perlite (or pumice) with 20% fir bark and pine bark or cedar chips. This creates an 81.2% porosity level which is essential to promote and sustain healthy root growth and development. The Eco Pot System only draws the water as needed and works simultaneously with constant oxygenation in the soilless mix to grow healthy plants without stressing their immune system.

In developing the Eco Pot concept, Gene built numerous prototypes. After testing several designs and configurations, he designed a reservoir with a built in drain system and aeration holes around the side of Eco Pot.

The engineering eliminates over-watering, one of the most common problems encountered by growers who have a tendency to kill their plants with kindness. The holes around the side of Eco Pot serve as a constant aerator, providing oxygen for the plant’s roots and the healthy microbial life in the growth medium. It also acts as a built-in drainage system if you inadvertently overfill the reservoir. Nalbandian consulted with Dr. Wesley Jarrell, a professor at the University of California at Riverside, an expert in horticulture and foremost soil physicist.

“He told me the Pot was perfect for successful growing, as the water taken from the reservoir would be part of the soil media we used by capillary action.”

He stressed that more traditional top watering or drip irrigation is inadequate as it:

• Does not distribute water evenly and throughout soil media (leaving dry areas).
• Pushes salts down and irritates roots.
• Is known to cause water molds (pythium), which retards root growth and development.
• Hobbyists and grandmasters alike may not know how much water they should give an individual plant at anytime; the Eco Pot addresses the watering needs of plants individually in changing conditions.

While Nalbandian has enjoyed a successful career in horticulture for decades, he admits that the hydroponics industry offers some unique challenges and demands. However, as the minds of millions open up to hydroponics, his proven concept and cost-effective pricing will help Nalbandian and Eco Growing Systems to realize the goal of turning thousands of consumers into productive members of the global growing solution that is home hydroponics.

“I have been concerned that some of the growing methods offered by the hydroponics industry are overly complex and cumbersome,” he concludes. “The equipment available can be too varied, expensive and time-consuming to set up and install. Once set up, there may be an excessive use and waste of water, and higher energy costs. I believe our Eco Growing Systems can bring a standard to home hydroponics growing. Using scientifically proven research, we have been able to cut water and cut energy costs by 50-60% versus growing with conventional hydroponics systems, without any sacrifice whatsoever in production capabilities.”

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We need Captain Planet more now than ever.
Last modified on Monday, 12 August 2013 05:07

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