This past Thursday evening I was a guest at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Fla. The occasion was the official unveiling of the first HyCube modular hydroponic, “cleaner than organic” vegetable production system. Glowing pink as evening settled in, the HyCube showed off stacks of leafy greens ready for harvesting for the 1,883-room, 121-suite property with nine dining outlets and 450,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space.
I guarantee you would be impressed by the structure; I certainly was. The HyCube makes local as hyper-local as it can get—literally minutes from harvest to table.
I will be writing more about the HyCube in the coming week, but it is a production of Eco Convergence Group, Inc. (ECG). ECG is a fully owned subsidiary of Eco Convergence Group AS of Oslo, Norway and its U.S. headquarters is in Orlando, Fla.
Hydroponics has been around for a long time, but ECG has taken it to a sterile-lab type of level. I spoke with Cristian Toma, Ph.D., CEO for ECG and he told me he and the company’s other co-founder (now deceased) came out of the semiconductor and biomedical industries. “We know clean rooms and climate control,” Toma says, adding that a HyCube can just as easily produce vegetables in Minnesota in the winter as it can in Florida in the summer.
Steps Away from the Main Kitchen
The HyCube is located right next to the main kitchen. The hotel’s Executive Chef Eric Martinez and his culinary team will have a constant bounty of fresh, healthy produce, such as lettuce, baby spinach, arugula, herbs, microgreens and edible flowers, as well as other leafy greens, all grown from organic, non-GMO seeds. When compared to traditional farming, the HyCube consumes up to 90 percent less water and will reduce crop cycle by 20 percent without the use of harmful chemicals like pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, etc. Plant extracts will be used to create fresh green drinks and probiotic drinks, and the water filtration system will provide purified water that will be bottled and offered in the Central Pantry, a “grab-and-go” outlet within the hotel.
The HyCube’s glowing presence transforms a guest’s experience by enabling them to be more connected to the food they are eating and observe how their food is being grown, from seedling to fully-grown plants. ECG’s local partner, Brook Hollow Hydro Farm, is growing tomatoes, berries and other fruit for the hotel. The hotel’s on-site HyCube could grow that as well but it makes sense to dedicate the space to leafy vegetables, herbs, etc.
“There is no spoilage here,” Toma emphasizes.
The HyCube best fits luxury or upper upscale hotels with large dining and meeting space. You would think that the cost of such a system would be intimidating but it is not. In fact, there is no upfront cost. The hotel agrees to purchase a certain amount of what is grown from ECG; ECG recovers its investment that way. Toma says there are various business models that can be arranged. The hotel is responsible for utility costs.
Eco Convergence has projects in the pipeline for additional HyCubes to be constructed for the hospitality and food services industries in the United States and abroad.
Watch for more details on the HyCube in the coming days.
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