Our lemur colony is getting a nutrition makeover thanks to Fork Farms, a Wisconsin based company that manufactures and sells indoor, vertical hydroponic growing systems called Flex Farms.
Early this year, LCF was contacted by Joanna Trygstad, a longtime follower of LCF. Her husband Andy is the Vice President of Operations for Fork Farms. When Andy mentioned a zoo was interested in purchasing one of the units, Joanna decided to connect her two passions and reached out to LCF. Joanna raised all the money for the Flex Farm in two weeks and donated the unit to LCF.
The Flex Farm is a fully self-contained vertical hydroponic growing system. The portable system only requires a standard electrical outlet and less than 10 square feet of space. Instead of sunlight, plants soak up the light from a compact LED lighting system. Just one Flex Farm can yield a harvest every 28 days:
- One Flex Farm unit holds 288 plants, is 6 feet tall and can produce more than 390 pounds of greens per year.
- The system requires about 1-3 hours per month of maintenance and cost about $0.17 per month in electricity to operate.
- The system is made of lightweight, easy to clean material, is powered by two or three LED lights, and includes one growing supplies box – 3 months’ worth of materials to grow in the system.
- The systems are designed and manufactured in Wisconsin.
Originally designed to combat food insecurity, the Flex Farm units are in use in health care, schools, food pantries, restaurants, and by private chefs.
The LCF team started the first planting in April and by May harvested the first crop of lettuce for the lemur colony to enjoy. The addition of the Flex Farm is a huge step forward in the team’s attempts to increase onsite food sustainability, a project they’ve been working on for the last few years. The unit allows the staff to continuously produce good quality leafy greens even through the hot Florida summer.
Recent research at the Duke Lemur Center shows that the addition of lettuce to ruffed lemur diets helped improve their gut microbiome and may closer resemble that of wild ruffed lemurs in Madagascar.
Our ruffed lemurs aren’t the only ones enjoying this delicious produce. The ring-tailed, collared brown, common brown, and mongoose lemurs are also getting in on the excitement. The Flex Farm units are also great for growing a variety of herbs and the lemur colony recently enjoyed some fresh basil enrichment.
We are so grateful to everyone at Fork Farms who has helped introduce and guide us through the use of the Flex Farm, especially Joanna, Andy, and Kevin. And many thanks go out to Mary Schmidt for helping us get the word out about this amazing new addition to the reserve.
ABOUT FORK FARMS:
Founded in 2010 by social entrepreneur Alex Tyink, Fork Farms is an agriculture technology company that allows people and communities to participate in the fresh, local food movement. Fork Farms created the Flex Farm technology and has implemented indoor vertical hydroponic systems for schools, institutional food service, and food pantries nationwide. For more information, visit www.forkfarms.com.