A massive system of gutters fills the greenhouse, as does the echoing trickle of running water. Barry Thoele’s crop grows here, thrives, but you won’t find any produce sprouting from soil. Thoele, owner of Barry’s Cherries Hydroponics Produce in Staples, is a longtime practitioner of hydroponics, the technique of growing plants in nutrient-rich water solvent, rather than soil. Thoele is passionate about hydroponics, and through the classes he offers, he hopes to proselytize the non-traditional growing method to areas far and wide. In the near future, that could include the Mille Lacs community.
Thoele’s career hadn’t started in hydroponics. Originally, he had been a fishing guide. Eventually, he’d decided the income was too spotty to raise a family. He transitioned into the bait industry after becoming frustrated with an inconsistent bait supplier.
It was the bait industry that led Thoele to hydroponics. In the process of designing a fish farm, he realized that raising the fish would create an excess nutrient load. Hydroponics had proved a means of redirecting and using those excess nutrients. Currently, he drew about half the nutrients used from his bait farm while purchasing the other half.
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