Tag Archives: Epcot

Aquaponics: Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot

Aquaponics:  Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot



During my recent visit to Orlando, I had the opportunity to attend the “Behind the Seeds” Tour to get a close up view of the greenhouses at Epcot.  The hour long tour was led by a young college graduate interning in the shrimp propagation lab and worth every penny of the $25 admission fee.    Laura was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fun!

The greenhouse showcases a variety of cutting edge agricultural growing methods including the propagation of beneficial insects, aquaponics,  hydroponics and the use of sand as a growing medium — all developed to increase production of crops in smaller space with fewer resources.  Lettuce, for example can be grown much faster in an aquaponic environment with nutrient rich water.   Currently, 1% of the produce used at the Disney properties come from the crops grown in their greenhouses.


Parasitoid wasp raised to eat invasive insects, squash growing in water on a revolving wheel, greens growing in revolving towers.


The produce highlighted included herbs, greens, huge winter squashes, gourds, cherry tomatoes, pineapples, spices, cucumbers, and flowers.  I was interested to see how the trellised the tomatoes, cucumbers and melons resulted in such a high yield.   There was a demonstration of several different non soil growing mediums which included some that I already use.


Non organic growing mediums, flowers growing in nutrient rich water, cucumbers grown in a specially shaped container


One highlight were the “hidden Mickey’s” tucked around the greenhouse in surprisingly places – some of which I didn’t notice until I looked at my photos later.  The methods demonstrated looked so clean and sterile and different from the down and dirty gardening methods that I employ in my gardens.   I was also impressed with the amount of technology necessary to be successful — the right amount of nutrients in the liquid or non soil mediums, the temperature control, the use of motorized “pots” for the plants, carefully trellised tomatoes using string and likely, lots of careful pruning, etc.


Me posing with a huge winter squash grown in the sand, English cucumbers and squashes growing on trellises.


The tour provided a fascinating behind the scenes (seeds) glimpse into some very different growing methods.  I admire and appreciate  but for now, I’ll stick with my traditional gardening methods.   On the other hand, I learned a lot and have been inspired to give the Tower Garden another look when I tire of the physical labor of my community gardens.

After the walking tour, we took the “Living with the Land” ride that toured the greenhouses by water and gave us another perspective of the gardens and fish.   A great combination!

See if you can find the four hidden Mickey’s!


A tray full of peas growing in water and hollyhocks growing in sand.


Dave and I posing in the spice garden, a topiary of guess who and a trellis of cherry tomatoes growing in sand.


Cherry tomatoes hoisted up on strings, cherry tomatoes galore and more racks of greens.

What is a Tower Garden?


I am a traditional get down and dirty gardener.   I love to putter around in the soil, plant seeds, breath in the fresh air, figure out watering systems, analyze new forms of fertilization, soil amendment and companion planting strategies.   Weeding, watering, moving straw bales, compost and trimming, visiting with other gardeners, making my rounds at the local garden shop, hauling buckets of flowers and heavy baskets of vegetables are all part of the joy of gardening for me.

That being said, I am interested in learning about gardening in any form.   My friend Deb Flom, a new distributor with Juice Plus, invited me to attend a presentation last night about The Tower Garden, a hydroponic garden system marketed by her company.   Judging by the large, enthusiastic crowd in attendance, The Tower Garden seems to be the rage among busy, non-gardeners who want to eat home grown organic produce without getting their hands dirty.

The speaker, a scientist and businessman who had spent his early career developing and managing hydroponic and aeroponic farming systems at The Land, a modern crop development marvel at Epcot in Orlando, FL, made a good case for eating locally produced organic food.   He presented several reasons to bypass the bother and grime of traditional gardening.   His arguments included the lack of time and gardening skill, lack of space, the unknown nutritional value of home grown vegetables due to depleted soils and the ability to shorten the maturity cycle of plants using hydroponics.

Although I came with an open mind, I admittedly have a preference for gardening the old fashioned way.   I am convinced of many benefits beyond the organic crops I harvest for my family.    Exercise, fresh air, relationships, problem solving, play time and learning for both children and adults, healing, thinking time, sunshine, sustainable living, diversity, happiness and yes, dirt are just a few.   I also came with a slight prejudice against The Tower Garden having heard of some difficulties my daughter’s roommate had had with her Tower Garden — problems that she had discussed with me in an attempt to solve them.

So with that in mind, I realized that although this system cannot meet the present gardening expectations and needs of a gardener like me, it is the right choice for the person who wants to grow food, simply and without the complication of growing food the traditional way.   There are many in this world who need simple solutions and The Tower Garden provides this.

IMG_4418[1]In that vein, I was quite surprised to see a friend who had gardened alongside me for years in my community garden. She retired several years ago citing time constraints and increasing family commitments.   Knowing Glenda as a person committed to healthy living,  I understand her choice to utilize The Tower Garden as a time saving way to grow organic vegetables for her family.   Talking about the options with her, I have a new found respect for this gardening possibility.