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Reaching for the sky with Squamish start-up's vertical gardening system

GrowLode designed to increase vegetable yields with less work By Brandon Barrett
SKYHIGH A series of interlocking "quad pots" that are part of GrowLode's vertical gardening system. Photo submitted

A Squamish start-up is making it easier for the aspiring green thumb to take their garden to the next level — literally. Kent Elchuk has developed a self-sustaining vertical gardening system that was designed to produce massive yields of pesticide-free vegetable crops.

"It's trying to basically get the most production per square foot and to be able to grow anywhere with the least amount of work and keep it self-sustaining," Elchuk explained.

Called GrowLode, the self-sustaining system uses header and feeder lines connected to a pump to water a network of stackable, vertical "quad pots" fixed on steel pipes that keeps plants above the soil, resulting in bigger yields without the back-breaking, wallet-draining work required in traditional gardens.

"I can't see a more cost-effective, productive, healthy way to do it, especially with pests and diseases," Elchuk said. "You get up three or four feet (1 to 1.5 metres), you get out of the bug zone. It's a better zone; you get more per square foot and your costs go down, too. That's the thing: you really get to save on your fertilizer costs, etc. because everything is so condensed and you're not wasting anything."

While not ideal for the casual gardener, Elchuk said it's an ideal system for those looking to expand their production, or even move towards small-scale farming.

"I don't see it being a trend or a fad. But those that are really keen... and who don't want to go to the store to ever buy (produce) again, or they want to maybe approach farming a bit, that's who it's really for."

The savvy gardener could even produce enough vegetables in one grow season to last the whole year, Elchuk noted.

"Nowadays, with recipes and technologies and the way things are, you can take all your tomatoes, let's say, vacuum-seal them, make all your base sauces and put them in the freezer for six months," he added.

There are also options for how you decide to grow your plants.

"The system is hydroponic and you have the option to go organic-hydroponic or just hydroponic depending on where your head's at. That's an ongoing debate," said Elchuk.

A web developer, Elchuk combined his two passions into GrowLode, which uses a web-based microcomputer to monitor gardens and remind users when to water their plants.

"Basically, it uses a camera that takes pictures at X amount of intervals, and then it shoots the picture into that person's account on the server," he explained. "It's quite easy to use."

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