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Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #70 on: March 28, 2016, 08:55:54 AM »
I harvested my initial run of 20 heads yesterday. I gave a few to my parents and some to relatives for Easter. My girlfriend ended up bringing six to her family's house and they ate them with dinner. I wasn't there, but she said everyone loved it, and as far as I know, no one has gotten ill or died yet! My biggest head ended up being just over 11 inches across.

I've got 20 more Romaine seedlings that are a couple days old, and I planted 20 Butterhead seeds this morning before work. I had terrible luck with the Butterhead I tried to grow in soil several months back, so I'm hoping the hydroponic system can pick up the slack. Should be another 25 days or so before I get my second batch of Romaine.

I was looking at a space over the weekend. I'm not sure of the ceiling height, but based on the square footage alone, I can fit 180 of the racks I've have in my basement. That'd be a total of 17,100 heads growing at any given time, with the ability to harvest 3420 heads per week. The ceiling looks to be about 11' - 12' based on the pictures, and if that's the case, I could fit the equivalent of 270 of the racks I have in my basement and harvest 5130 heads per week. 




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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #71 on: March 28, 2016, 09:00:37 AM »
What about environmentals in that building?  Like heat/lighting, or is that all gained from the lightbulbs?  Looks like you are getting serious with this which is awesome.

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #72 on: March 28, 2016, 09:18:06 AM »
What about environmentals in that building?  Like heat/lighting, or is that all gained from the lightbulbs?  Looks like you are getting serious with this which is awesome.

The available space was just retrofitted with new 400 amp service. That'd be enough to run a decent sized machine shop, a bunch of lighting and water pumps shouldn't be any problem. In the winter, the lights would be more than enough to keep the building warm (though you don't want temps much higher than 68*F around lettuce). The lights will only be off six hours a day. If it gets too cold in those six hours, I'd have to run heat. The summer will definitely require cooling of some kind. I have to look into what the space has in terms of that. I'd have to block all the windows as you don't want another light source entering the building. I'd insulate them in the process (assuming the lease allows that).

Offline bosk1

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #73 on: March 28, 2016, 10:17:53 AM »
17,100 heads growing at any given time
Wow!  I didn't realize you plan to grow that much.  I'm sure you have already taken this into account, but make sure both your racks and the floor of your facility can handle the weight.
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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #74 on: March 28, 2016, 10:23:43 AM »
Wow!  I didn't realize you plan to grow that much.  I'm sure you have already taken this into account, but make sure both your racks and the floor of your facility can handle the weight.

Ahhh, the fabled "brown M&M's" story.  :lol

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #75 on: April 26, 2016, 06:21:22 AM »
I've taken another step toward one day starting my own farm. Last night I applied for a sales associate position at a company in Connecticut called Farm Tek. They are a supplier of agriculture equipment, and the position I applied for deals with the selling of greenhouses and hydroponic/aquaponic equipment on an industrial scale. It'd be a great opportunity to network with people in the business and really learn the technology and hardware inside and out. The thought of selling stuff over the phone kind of makes me cringe, but at least it's in an industry I'm looking to break into, and I certainly couldn't hate it any more than my current line of work.

Before commission, I'd be taking a 20% pay cut, and I'd be adding 45-60 minutes to my commute every day, but I think I'm okay with that.
 

Offline JustJen

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #76 on: April 26, 2016, 07:18:20 AM »
This is SPECTACULAR. And good job growing lettuce, for some reason mine just WILL NOT GROW. I have a greenhouse out back that I bought and assembled myself - very small, like 4'x 5' or something - and have a ton of seeds started, but never have luck with lettuce. Really cool thread!
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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #77 on: April 26, 2016, 07:29:17 AM »
I've taken another step toward one day starting my own farm. Last night I applied for a sales associate position at a company in Connecticut called Farm Tek. They are a supplier of agriculture equipment, and the position I applied for deals with the selling of greenhouses and hydroponic/aquaponic equipment on an industrial scale. It'd be a great opportunity to network with people in the business and really learn the technology and hardware inside and out. The thought of selling stuff over the phone kind of makes me cringe, but at least it's in an industry I'm looking to break into, and I certainly couldn't hate it any more than my current line of work.

Before commission, I'd be taking a 20% pay cut, and I'd be adding 45-60 minutes to my commute every day, but I think I'm okay with that.

If that's what it takes to get where you want to go... better to make that move now before you settle down and have kids.  My friend who came to RCMH last weekend with me has been wanting to make a job change but since he has a kid now, taking a pay cut (which he would have to do) would really hurt his family.  Hope you get the job.

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #78 on: April 26, 2016, 07:42:28 AM »
This is SPECTACULAR. And good job growing lettuce, for some reason mine just WILL NOT GROW. I have a greenhouse out back that I bought and assembled myself - very small, like 4'x 5' or something - and have a ton of seeds started, but never have luck with lettuce. Really cool thread!

Do have a thermometer and humidity gauge in there? Lettuce really starts to struggle in temps above 70*F. Humidity is great for germinating, but once three leaves start to appear, you want to lessen that variable a bit. Grab yourself one of these. They are only $11 and can make the world of difference. It displays real time readings as well as displays the highs and lows over the last 24 hours. It's a great way to know what your environment is doing in night hours or while you're away.

http://www.amazon.com/AcuRite-00613A1-Indoor-Humidity-Monitor/dp/B0013BKDO8/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1461677905&sr=8-3&keywords=thermometer+humidity


I've taken another step toward one day starting my own farm. Last night I applied for a sales associate position at a company in Connecticut called Farm Tek. They are a supplier of agriculture equipment, and the position I applied for deals with the selling of greenhouses and hydroponic/aquaponic equipment on an industrial scale. It'd be a great opportunity to network with people in the business and really learn the technology and hardware inside and out. The thought of selling stuff over the phone kind of makes me cringe, but at least it's in an industry I'm looking to break into, and I certainly couldn't hate it any more than my current line of work.

Before commission, I'd be taking a 20% pay cut, and I'd be adding 45-60 minutes to my commute every day, but I think I'm okay with that.

If that's what it takes to get where you want to go... better to make that move now before you settle down and have kids.  My friend who came to RCMH last weekend with me has been wanting to make a job change but since he has a kid now, taking a pay cut (which he would have to do) would really hurt his family.  Hope you get the job.

Thanks! I'm feeling that now, even without kids. I make good money, but it's not like I'm rolling in cash. I get a couple hundred bucks worth of play money every month that I'll likely lose if I were to get this job.

Offline JustJen

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #79 on: April 26, 2016, 07:50:10 AM »
Thanks! I can't even get the seeds to sprout usually. I'm not sure if it's a soil issue or what since everything else always is happy as can be.
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Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #80 on: April 26, 2016, 08:15:00 AM »
Thanks! I can't even get the seeds to sprout usually. I'm not sure if it's a soil issue or what since everything else always is happy as can be.

It could be a number of things. Your water's ph level is the first place I'd start. That's always the first thing I test if things start acting funky. If you're trying to plant in soil that's in pots, you're going to struggle a bit. While lettuce like temps in the high 60s, the seeds prefer warmer temperatures as it encourages root growth. You might have better luck starting your seeds in rockwool cubes and then transferring them into the soil once you see roots emerging.  I use a heating mat under my rockwool cubes when germinating. They work wonders.

I use something very similar to this, and I keep a cover over the trays to trap the humidity until leaves begin to show.


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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #81 on: April 26, 2016, 01:39:49 PM »
Beautiful! I'm familiar with the rockwool / heating pad combo but hadn't thought about doing it with lettuce. I'm in an outdoor environment right now in a greenhouse in upstate NY weather, so they're not all that warm that consistently yet. I think they will be happier in another week or two. I love gardening but am not very good at it but it doesn't stop me from trying year after year. I have to do container gardens this year and from now on though I think, because the spot in our yard that is my garden area (due to the rest being nothing but rock or leach field for septic) used to have a pine tree growing there ten years ago and so the soil that is there is largely clay and rock but also pine needle-based organic stuff now, which I guess is very acidic. I"ve added TONS of good soil and perlite and vermiculite to it over the years but still the things that grow best up there are the native dewberries and some blackberries and wild strawberries.. my green beans also did great up there but my other stuff, not so much last year. Or the few years prior. :lol but I keep plugging away. Anyway, this year it's greenhouse and container garden I think. So far so good.

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Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #82 on: May 10, 2016, 07:47:16 AM »
 A few posts back I was talking about looking at locations. While I'm not quite ready for that just yet, I do keep an eye out just for laughs. After some preliminary market research, I'm kicking off the next phase of this. Unless everyone is lying to me (a few dozen people now), my product has been very well received. I've had several people at work ask to purchase some and I am working on setting up some standing orders around the office.

I was talking this over with my father who's been debating what to do during retirement. He's looking to retire in the next 18 months, so time's ticking. After talking about this on several occasions and showing him the numbers, he seems to be on board and supportive of this. Anyway, he decided to tell me during this conversation that I have about $8500 in savings bonds from when I was a kid. Maybe he waited until I really needed them to tell me so I wouldn't piss them away on a car or something, I don't know. Anyway, his basement is 1400 square feet and he offered me a little more than half of it. I have to clean it out, but 800ish square feet at no cost other than electricity is pretty sweet.

My goal is to be able to produce 120 heads a week between my basement and his. It's definitely doable and within my budget. I'm still up in the air in regards of where/how I want to sell it. I could go the farmer's market route and hope to push as much product per week as I can, or I could try and get some standing orders with local restaurants and distribute it in bulk. I'm not sure which would be better. I'd get less money from the standing orders, but my cash flow would be predictable. I could charge more per head at the farmers market, but weather and time of year will mess with my numbers and make things harder to predict.

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #83 on: June 01, 2016, 07:57:06 AM »
Got a full boat at the moment. Romaine / Purple Oakleaf / Butterhead, all about a week apart. I'm experimenting with some new lighting. I'm trying to find some affordable LEDs ($180 for 8 bulbs is the cheapest I've found so far) that still allow me to grow a full head in less than 40 days. The back half of the rack is the new lighting. It seems to be working. They use 55% less electricity than the florescents, last 5-6 times longer, and they put off next to no heat. If they prove to work, I will be buying 24 more and scaling up my operation to capacity.


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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #84 on: June 02, 2016, 08:00:28 AM »
 :tup looks yummy

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #85 on: June 02, 2016, 08:14:57 AM »

My goal is to be able to produce 120 heads a week between my basement and his. It's definitely doable and within my budget. I'm still up in the air in regards of where/how I want to sell it. I could go the farmer's market route and hope to push as much product per week as I can, or I could try and get some standing orders with local restaurants and distribute it in bulk. I'm not sure which would be better. I'd get less money from the standing orders, but my cash flow would be predictable. I could charge more per head at the farmers market, but weather and time of year will mess with my numbers and make things harder to predict.

Sounds like the route to go would be to do both.  Get some standing orders for baseline income, but try to make extra at the farmer's market.

Make sure you get a straw hat so people buy that you are a farmer.  Also get some pictures of yourself at a real farm, Jimmy McGill style.
     

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #86 on: August 22, 2016, 11:19:53 AM »
Did a little digging over the weekend and found some very interesting information. I had mentioned awhile back that my parents agreed to let me take half the basement in their house. I started looking up some of the regulations for their area and found a nice surprise.

The property they own used to be part of a farm (Gustafsons Farm in Watertown CT) over a century ago. The farm still exists, but part of it was sold off to developers 25-30 years ago and was turned into two dozen relatively large and private pieces of property. My parents are on one of those pieces of property. Their property is zoned as farmland, and owners of land in such zoning, by right, can commercially farm and build whatever structures are needed to operate said farm. They also have the right to sell to market from their property. This might be even be possible without permits, but the zoning documents I read weren't completely clear on that, so I'm going to have to contact the town.

Anyway, my father is ready for retirement. His company offered him a nice sum of money to stay on for an additional year, but after that, he's going to need something to keep him busy. He's always talked about becoming a part time consultant doing what he does now, but I've got him seriously considering this as a possible/viable business endeavour. I spent the better part of Sunday doing math, modelling, creating floor plans, and making graphs and potential projections based on a wide array of variables. I've begun putting together an official business plan.

« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 11:40:44 AM by Chino »

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #87 on: February 13, 2017, 11:39:18 AM »
So I pulled the trigger yesterday and bought a commercial system. Everything on it is OSHA certified and all materials, pumps, and electronics are FDA approved for safe human consumption. What I purchased comes with more than what's pictured here (additional plumbing and lighting). The one pictured above is a mockup with fake lettuce just to give prospective buyers a visual of size. I can grow 450% more lettuce than I can currently, while only using 25% more electricity. This set me back just over $4200 after shipping and taxes, so I'd say I'm officially in the thick of it.


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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #88 on: February 13, 2017, 11:44:20 AM »
Do you have a name for this business yet? 

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #89 on: February 13, 2017, 11:46:52 AM »
Do you have a name for this business yet?

I've just been calling it "CT Hydro" for now. No paperwork or anything filed yet, but an LLC should be in the near future. No clue what I'm doing in that regard, so I'm going to have to use Victoria's mom as a resource. She's a paralegal and has don't all kinds of work in that realm with all the pavers in the family.

Offline bosk1

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #90 on: February 13, 2017, 12:35:36 PM »
Chino, just want to throw something out there for you to consider:  Why do you want an LLC? 

I'm not saying you should or should.  But you should know why.  Oftentimes (but not always), a paralegal may be just fine to help you prepare and file the paperwork for whatever kind of entity you want to set up.  But they usually cannot give you the complete picture and advice as to why, in your particular circumstances, with your particular goals and challenges in mind, one type of entity is advantageous for you over some other type of business entity.  You might think an LLC is the way to go based on the limited set of advice you have received, and then come to find that, for example, at tax time, it destroys you because you did not know about or consider one particular quirk that is unique to your particular business model. 

To put it another way, there is a whole universe of issues you should consider before setting up a business entity, but you don't know what you don't know unless you consult an expert that knows what all the potential pitfalls are.

So even though there is a potentially substantial initial cost in talking with a lawyer, I think you should.  That isn't meant to be discouraging.  Quite the opposite.  I hope you find it helpful.
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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #91 on: February 13, 2017, 12:36:38 PM »
Ct hydro... are you sure this is lettuce and not the devil's lettuce?  :lol  My coworker is just starting his own company, trying to make an app, and just did the whole LLC thing and he used legalzoom.  Granted, family is good for the advice and getting you started, but there seems to be a lot out there to work on the legal entities and whatnot online.

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #92 on: February 13, 2017, 12:42:15 PM »
Chino, just want to throw something out there for you to consider:  Why do you want an LLC? 

I'm not saying you should or should.  But you should know why.  Oftentimes (but not always), a paralegal may be just fine to help you prepare and file the paperwork for whatever kind of entity you want to set up.  But they usually cannot give you the complete picture and advice as to why, in your particular circumstances, with your particular goals and challenges in mind, one type of entity is advantageous for you over some other type of business entity.  You might think an LLC is the way to go based on the limited set of advice you have received, and then come to find that, for example, at tax time, it destroys you because you did not know about or consider one particular quirk that is unique to your particular business model. 

To put it another way, there is a whole universe of issues you should consider before setting up a business entity, but you don't know what you don't know unless you consult an expert that knows what all the potential pitfalls are.

So even though there is a potentially substantial initial cost in talking with a lawyer, I think you should.  That isn't meant to be discouraging.  Quite the opposite.  I hope you find it helpful.

None taken. This is the feedback I want and was hoping for. I don't want pats on the back. I want people along the way to tell me that I'm doing something wrong or royally screwing up. In regards to why I was considering an LLC, I don't know much else in regards to small businesses. My father had his own LLC when he was a consultant for Pratt & Whitney and my uncle with a machine shop that grossed $5M plus a year is an LLC.

I've consulted with an old robotics team mentor of mine (shameless plug: http://precisiondipcoating.com/) who's had an incredibly successful business as an LLC owner. He and I talked about this in decent detail and an LLC seemed encouraging/the way to go. I don't have my heart set on an LLC, and I'll happily welcome any alternatives.

Offline Implode

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #93 on: February 13, 2017, 01:35:12 PM »
I'm sad I didn't check out this thread any time over the past year. Really cool stuff, Chino!

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #94 on: February 13, 2017, 01:37:11 PM »
I'm curious, Chino, when that equipment arrives and you get it functional, what are your approximate monthly costs to operate and if you don't mind me asking, what do you expect to make?

I think it is very interesting, and commend you for going balls deep, and I've showed my girlfriend and she absolutely loves it. I know she would love to be able to do something similar, especially in my part of Canada where we have an approximate 3 week growing period.  :lol

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #95 on: February 13, 2017, 02:00:11 PM »
I'm curious, Chino, when that equipment arrives and you get it functional, what are your approximate monthly costs to operate and if you don't mind me asking, what do you expect to make?

I think it is very interesting, and commend you for going balls deep, and I've showed my girlfriend and she absolutely loves it. I know she would love to be able to do something similar, especially in my part of Canada where we have an approximate 3 week growing period.  :lol

Assuming no catastrophic failures and the ability to maintain the same 33-35 day growth period I was able to achieve on my homebuilt system over the last year, I expect this one rack to make me between $4000 and $4600 in profit over the next year (in a one year period) selling to some restaurant owners I've spoken with. It's hard to say exactly because I will be buying stuff in greater bulk now as opposed to what I've been purchasing over the last year, so that opens up my vendor choices a bit. Nutrients are the area where I really need to do more research. The stuff I have been using works wonders, but I can't get it in bulk, and buying it the quantities I need will not be practical. I need to find a good alternative. I'm debating whether or not I should continue my current setup for lettuce, or if I want to give basil a shot now that I'll have this new one coming in.

While certainly not a three week growth period like Canada, the climate in CT is my largest advantage, we have 3-4 months good growing conditions for lettuce, and only a few weeks of that are ideal. Indoors, I have the ability to make it whatever season I want and have gold-like control over the sun and wind. It's pretty cool. My ultimate goal is to be able to set up somewhere between 40 and 50 of these in a semi-large facility (there are more than enough options in CT with old WWII factories) and never have to sit in a cubicle ever again.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 03:38:10 PM by Chino »

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #96 on: February 13, 2017, 02:00:23 PM »
I'm sad I didn't check out this thread any time over the past year. Really cool stuff, Chino!

Thanks!

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #97 on: February 13, 2017, 02:20:54 PM »
I'm curious, Chino, when that equipment arrives and you get it functional, what are your approximate monthly costs to operate and if you don't mind me asking, what do you expect to make?

I think it is very interesting, and commend you for going balls deep, and I've showed my girlfriend and she absolutely loves it. I know she would love to be able to do something similar, especially in my part of Canada where we have an approximate 3 week growing period.  :lol

Assuming no catastrophic failures and the ability to maintain the same 33-35 day growth period I was able to achieve on my homebuilt system over the last year, I expect this one rack to make me between $4000 and $4600K in profit over the next year selling to some restaurant owners I've spoken with.

That's a huge range you got there.  From $4,000 to $4.6 million.  That better be the best damn lettuce ever if people are buying it at that high end of that range.

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #98 on: February 13, 2017, 03:35:19 PM »
 :lol :lol I swear I know how numbers work.

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #99 on: February 15, 2017, 09:15:58 AM »
Chino,

Hell of a job man. Nice work.
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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #100 on: February 15, 2017, 05:36:10 PM »
From a chef's perspective, look into micros and sprouts as well. We buy flats of sunflower sprouts, about one to two a week. Hydro grown, and at least here it's probably quite lucrative since every chef is using shit like this now.
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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #101 on: February 15, 2017, 05:49:19 PM »
That is really cool, Chino

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #102 on: February 16, 2017, 04:19:08 AM »
That is really cool, Chino

Thanks  :tup

From a chef's perspective, look into micros and sprouts as well. We buy flats of sunflower sprouts, about one to two a week. Hydro grown, and at least here it's probably quite lucrative since every chef is using shit like this now.

Yup. Micro greens have been on my radar for a while now. I belong to a few Facebook groups dedicated to them and have a couple of people I exchange emails with quite regularly about the industry. The lettuce is my main priority, but once I get this new rack cranking, I'd like to dive into micro greens for sure. They seem significantly easier to grow than what I do. As a chef, what would you say would be the top three to focus on?

Offline Sir GuitarCozmo

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #103 on: February 16, 2017, 06:34:54 AM »
So that I'm clear.  This "thing".  That you've built.  It isn't a city, right?  And it most definitely isn't built on rock and roll, right?

Offline Chino

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Re: So I built this thing.
« Reply #104 on: February 20, 2017, 01:05:27 PM »
Just got a call from the freight company, my system is scheduled to arrive in two days. That's actually really crappy because based on the site of the company I bought it from, the system wasn't supposed to be ready to ship until at least another two weeks from now. I have prep work to do that I was planning on doing this weekend, so now that's fucked.

I also have to be there to unload it and sign that everything arrived properly, which means I'm going to have to take the afternoon (maybe the day) off from work. That wouldn't typically be an issue, but I run a huge meeting once a month, and cancelling it the day before does not reflect well on me.