Mike Cade is Jiffy’s territory manager in North America. He speaks with Denise Kilgus, owner and manager at Living Water Farms in central Illinois. Thomas Roos, Content Marketeer, joins the table.
The first time I was invited at Living Waters, hydroponic systems were still completely new, Mike explains. It was a small operation ran by a family and members of the local community, growing mainly lettuce.
They were looking for a better and more natural alternative for their rockwool practice, and so I offered them to try both Jiffy Pellets and Jiffy Preforma, Mike says. He continues: And so, what they found, was that they both worked, but pellets worked better for some crops and Preforma worked especially well with lettuce. They were quite amazed by the amount of usable plants that came out of germination, how quickly they were growing, and they were just happy with the complete cycle.
Living Water Farms was using a NFT gutter system with an open top. The plugs would just sit right in the gutter where they would cycle water on and off to saturate the plugs. We tried different trays and found one that fitted perfectly with their gutters.
Over the years they’ve grown about six times in size and have modernized, while staying as clean and natural as possible.
Tailoring the product together
Denise leans in and says: Wow, I actually can’t remember exactly when Jiffy joined us.. But it was 2009 when we started production. And our production at that time was totally different compared to today. We had three bays, one with tomatoes, one with cucumbers and the other one was used for experimenting with different leafy greens. But, as most of our clients were chefs in Chicago and St Louis, we basically just followed their demand. By the time when we started using Jiffy Preforma, we were mostly producing lettuce varieties and some micro greens. We experimented for a while, to find the right recipe for our produce and growing system.
Mike adds: Well, back then there used to be a single recipe for Preforma as it was just launched. This project accelerated our process of designing different formulas with different ingredients. The hydroponic Preforma project at Living Waters actually really helped us a lot in progressing and advancing the Preforma product and seeing what was possible with it. I’m still very thankful that Living Waters gave us that trust and the opportunity to develop this together.
When it is made, Preforma consists of wetting agent, substrates, and a binder (among others). Because of the hydroponic system, these plugs needed to hold together more than usual. What we did for Living Waters is alter the mix of Preforma. We adapted the ratios and it became a lot stronger while keeping its porosity and water absorbing qualities at the same time.
Denise explains to Thomas: the Preforma that we use sits right in the gutter. We needed a large enough bottom so they wouldn’t fall over when the tables are being moved. But there are lots of possible shapes of Preforma and we quickly found the right tray for it too. Then we also needed something that wouldn’t fall apart when soaked often. And found it. Over the past 10 years we’ve shifted to using pretty much only Preforma plugs.
Going back to the beginning, was there a specific reason to invite Jiffy over? Thomas asks.
Switching from rockwool to Preforma
Denise: When we started, we used rockwool. And we used a little pellet type of product of which I can’t remember the name. I think I just knew the Jiffy name and was aware of their high quality pellets so I called. Fast forward, it’s the flat top of the Preforma plugs that really make it work well for our hydroponic system. We multi-seed as we grow lettuce, so the round top of most pellets made it quite difficult to seed if you’re using more than one seed. So therefore the flat, adapted version of Preforma was a great fit, and I’m not about to change it.
Throughout the years, you’ve developed as a food producing organization, Thomas concludes. What role did Mike play in this process?
The relationship with Jiffy
Communication with Mike has been excellent from day one, Denise smiles. I’ve never hesitated to reach out to him, in fact, he might got tired of hearing from me at times! And if he didn’t have an answer ready, he wouldn’t make something up but he would consult with colleagues first and then get back to me with an honest answer. So, I would highly recommend Jiffy to a grower, I’ve been completely satisfied with the product as well as the service.
Mike: And just to add to that, trialing different options is a learning experience for all of us. I’m glad the people at Living Waters always call when they have an idea, and they understand that Jiffy is always willing to walk this journey with them.
Denise smiles: We’ve never lacked fresh Preforma stock. That tells me Jiffy appreciates me as a client, even if I’m a smaller fish in the pond. And that’s why we love venturing along with Jiffy, finding the right direction together.
We needed something that wouldn’t fall apart when soaked often. And found it.Denise, Owner and Manager – Living Water Farms, Illinois
Over the past 10 years we’ve shifted to using pretty much only Preforma plugs.