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A wonderful birthday present

For my birthday, which was October 7th, Taylor and I took advantage of Disney's free admission and visited Epcot. We were in for a wonderful surprise when we went on the Behind the Seeds tour of the experimental greenhouse.

Here is a step by step of the entire tour:

The first stop was at the sterile lab where they create tissue cultures to clone a few different species of plants, including cinnamon trees, redwoods, and dragon fruit. We weren't actually allowed to go in, but we got to see all of the different cultures growing in the agar gel.

This cinnamon tree was made from one of the cultures in the lab. We got to smell some of the crushed leaves, and it smelled exactly like the spice!

We then got to actually go into the greenhouses! Our tour guide is in the blue shirt on the left. He actually graduated from a high school about thirty minutes from where I grew up.

In the first room of the greenhouse we got to see a bunch of different "ponics"--- aeroponics, aquaponics, and hydroponics.

Here we see brussel sprouts gliding through a wall filled with nutrient sprayers. The roots continually get doused with a liquid that contains all of the nutrients that they need to grow. Because the roots also have constant exposure to air, they get enough oxygen.

A close up of the roots passing under a sprayer

This is kind of a similar idea. These tubes contain absolutely nothing but air, and they pass under nutrient sprayers. The spray hits the roots which grow inside of the tube.

Another really interesting setup. These Styrofoam planters can easily stack a dozen high, and provide great insulation against temperature changes. It also makes low-laying crops much easier to harvest, because you don't have to crouch over.

We then got to release some beneficial insects. These ladybugs gobble up harmful pests that damage crops in the greenhouse.

Rockwool was one of the coolest things that I saw on the tour. It was perlite that was heated and spun like cotton candy to form this fluffy medium. It's formed into seedling trays which can be broken apart and planted directly into the soil.

Then we were in for another treat! We got to taste-test some delicious cucumbers grown in the greenhouse. We went back for seconds.... and thirds.... and fourths...

This was also really neat. By creating this triangular structure, they could grow four times the number of plants in the same area. This was another aeroponics setup where the empty interior is filled with roots that get sprayed with nutrients.

This spiral was another really cool vertical aeroponics system. Nutrient solution drops down the spiral to soak the roots. I'm not sure how well it works, but it sure does look pretty!

Now this little innovation was absolutely amazing. It's probably pretty unbelievable without seeing it, but it was essentially layers of cardboard that made up some of the walls. By keeping them sprayed with water, they cooled the air that passed into the greenhouses. It actually worked, too! If you put your hand up to the wall, it was cold to the touch.

This gigantic poster shows one of the huge tomato "trees" grown in the greenhouse. By choosing indeterminant varieties and trellising them, they can create a plant that grows just like a tree. I think this one particular plant grew something like 35,000 pounds of tomatoes.

Here, our tour guide demonstrates another aeroponics system. Known as a nutrient "film", plants are grown in the holes, and nutrient solution runs through the trench, soaking the roots. The solution can be recollected and reused over and over. They're looking at a similar method to grow food in extreme environments.

This was another one of their huge trellised eggplant "trees".

And what is that huge thing? A four pound lemon. Supposedly it has about a one-inch-thick rind, which means a LOT of lemon zest.

And look! A pumpkin tree!

Here we are in their aquafarm. They raise a bunch of different fish, as well as some alligators. While we were their, two of the gators were doing some very un-Disney-like things as they tried to rip out eachother's throats.

A bunch of tilapia swimming around in one of the tank. We got to feed these guys.

That pretty much wrapped up the tour. It was a really awesome experience, and cost about $15 per person to go. If you're ever in the area, check it out!


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