Permaculture is best described in the words of one of the people who coined the term - Bill Mollison:
"Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system."
Permaculture is our primary approach to growing food. The plant combinations, placements, soil composition, soil augmentation, moisture levels, watering frequency and more - are driven by principles of permaculture - tuned to the Farms’ geographical region and growing seasons.
We combine this approach with constantly collecting and processing data about the plants’ yields, pest resistance, growth and harvest cycles - fine-tuning our selections as we learn.
Here’s what all this means for our members and the neighborhoods we serve:
Diminished plant diseases
Polyculture, one of the principles of permaculture that we adhere to, means that we grow multiple plant varieties in each Lettuce Farm. We do R&D on multi-cropping, intercropping, crop rotation and companion planting in order to come up with the most optimized formulas for our Farms based on location and seasons.
This is the exact opposite of monoculture practiced by most large scale farms - where 1 crop covers a large piece of land, which makes them more susceptible to pests and diseases. This in turn results in the vicious cycle of harmful use of chemical pesticides and genetic modification to prevent those diseases.
Because of polyculture, Lettuce Farms are able to fight off microorganisms faster than in monocultures - the plant diversity acts as an immune system, and the negative impact is contained.
Our confidence in such practices is reflected in our guarantee to our members of yield from our Farms.
Aside from reduced disease, another factor that results in higher yields experienced by Lettuce Farms is that in a polycultural environment the roots of the plants make fuller use of the soil. This results in them growing thicker - generating higher yields than crops in monocultures. Regular harvesting above the soil (‘grow-harvest-grow-harvest’, as opposed to ‘grow-grow-grow-harvest’) in turn encourages higher output and nutritional value.
Increased urban biodiversity
Proliferation of permaculture based Lettuce Farms in urban areas results in the creation of habitat for more species - increasing biodiversity in areas we have networks in. Higher biodiversity means those areas are able to adjust better to changes in climate and reduced impact of diseases to plants, animals and humans.
Higher nutritional value
Polyculture results in better availability and allocation of the resources in the soil to all plants. Because of our technology driven mass customized approach, we are able to precisely track soil quality depletion against location, weather and what’s been growing. This then allows us to periodically augment the soil with the addition of the right quantities of optimized organic material.
For soil augmentation, we use the techniques of ‘sheet mulching’ - forming layers of nutrients contained in the organic matter, enabling them to become available to plants as it slowly breaks down. We generally do not till the soil - thus reducing our labor and energy costs, and increasing our yields because the soil is always in use. These techniques also attract and feed earthworms and slaters - who till the soil naturally, with their worm castings becoming fertilizers and soil conditioners.