Ag Tech: Hydroponics has come to Spink County

By Chris Fischer
Posted 6/5/24

Back in 2022, Elden Blume qualified to go to the National Future Farmers of America Convention in Indianapolis, IN. He was wandering around the “giant convention/farm show there” when he …

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Ag Tech: Hydroponics has come to Spink County


Back in 2022, Elden Blume qualified to go to the National Future Farmers of America Convention in Indianapolis, IN. He was wandering around the “giant convention/farm show there” when he spotted something interesting. “I was just walking around, and I saw this thing. I thought ‘Mom would love this.’”

Kellie Blume came over to see it too. “We both knew we had to get it.” Elden Blume said. Kellie Blume agreed “It was instant love. It was just ‘we’re getting this.’” What they’d seen was a display from a hydroponics supplier.

Freight Farms, based in Boston, MA, was founded in 2013, as part of the nascent Ag Tech sector. Per their site ( “...we aim to revolutionize local access to food for a more sustainable future – not just in terms of the environment but also by making communities more resilient and secure.” The company stated their focus as being on greens – lettuce, herbs, leafy green, and microgreens. Many other plants have also been grown.

But before we get deeper – what is hydroponics? Elden Blume said “It’s growing crops without any soil. You’re able to just put a plant in a little peat moss cup or plug. Then all it does is gets wet and grows. It doesn’t need any soil.” He wanted to try hydroponic agriculture because “I wanted to do something different, out of the ordinary. I started with pumpkins, just to see what would happen, and later expanded to chickens.” Elden Blume said. He had success with these ventures. Then he added “more market-fresh produce and, now, lettuce.”

Some places that his products have been found were: Redfield Food Center; Ken’s in Clark; Lake Grocery in Willow Lake; Rusty Lake Steakhouse; County Fair; Hy-Vee; and Hot Mama Max.

Elden Blume and Kellie Blume stated that they’re partners in Blume Foods, LLC. The hydroponic farm was established in August of 2023. Through Freight Farms, they ordered a trailer and other equipment. Proprietary software also came from the company. Elden Blume noted that set-up was fairly easy, and only took him a day or two. Of course, placement was a consideration. A solid concrete base to set the trailer on was important to have. The trailer needed electricity and water. “The company, they walk you through the whole set up. I think it took me 2 hours to do the whole inspection. Then you’re ready to go.” he said.

The Blumes were conscious of some problems getting fresh food. “Everything has to be trucked in.” Kellie Blume said. “No matter what, it’s gonna be traveling.” she added. Blume Foods LLC focused on lettuce. Elden Blume said “You go to a grocery store and buy a bag of lettuce, and throw half of it away. I’ve talked to managers, and they have the same problem at grocery stores. They buy it, open up the box, and just throw it away.”

Elden Blume saw benefits to growing in a hydroponic trailer. He said “We’re able to produce a product that, if you do grow it (in soil), it’s only for a couple of months around here. We’re able to do it all year long. And with the software, it’s easy.” The software helped with planning and other things. Blume could control the trailer’s settings, or look on its camera, through an app on his laptop or phone. When asked if Elden Blume was a well-organized person in general, Kellie Blume chimed in: “He’s a perfectionist.”

Elden Blume was able to get into a routine. He stated that “I try to be in there every day or every other day, making sure.” His routine included checking on the plants, the walls, to “make sure everything’s looking nice.” Sometimes he found something plugged up. He said that it generally took 8 weeks to grow a crop. Kellie Blume added “He’s got it timed out right now that we plant, transplant and harvest every week, ‘cause we’re on a rotation with the 4 walls.” Elden Blume understood the process. “It’s all in stages. You don’t plant it all at once, and harvest it all at once, and then you’re down for 2 months.” he said.

The environment inside the hydroponic trailer was cool and moist. It was like a greenhouse, but more tepid. Elden Blume stated that the temperature was set for 65 F at night and 70 F during the day. Near the entrance were shelves and a place for the youngest seedlings to grow. This was the nursery. Once the plants were 3 weeks old, they would be transplanted to one of the movable walls.

Tracks on the ceiling of the trailer allowed the walls to be moved. This would make working on plants easier, as it would create more room. The walls were roughly 2/3 the length of the trailer, and they extended ceiling to floor. Blume explained a little about his methodology. The number of plants on each wall was immeasurable to the naked eye. Little plants, contained in peat moss plugs, grew in ordered columns. Elden Blume gently pushed a plant aside and showed what was around it. Behind the insulating felt was a foam saturation strip. This was how the plants got their water. “The water drips from above and just runs all the way down and keeps them wet.” he said.

Water wasn’t wasted. Elden Blume explained “The container has 120 gallons of water storage in it. So you just fill tanks. And all the water gets recirculated every time the pumps run. When the plants get watered, it goes down the well, into that gutter and bottom and back into the main tank.”

Conservation was important. “We’re farmers – we care about the earth.” he said. Other benefits of hydroponic agriculture included diversity in products, and efficiency. In some ways, growing that way would be easier. In regard to their current focus, Elden Blume said “It’s hard to grow any lettuce around here.” Kellie Blume added “You can, but there’s so much.. It’s the bugs, the dirt, and all this other stuff. Then you’re washing every single leaf.” But, in the hydroponic trailer, “That environment doesn’t have the bugs, the dirt, or anything. It’s fresh. It’s clean.” Hydroponics could allow more control over the growing environment. “The weather doesn’t stop us.” Elden Blume said.

Hydroponic gardening could be done throughout the year in South Dakota. Kellie Blume said “It’s really fun in the winter, because it’s so nice over there. Everything is green and growing.” Elden Blume agreed that it could be a mood-lifter. There was also the benefit of having something to do over the dreary winter months. “You go over there, and it’s almost like you’re outside when you’re over there.” Kellie Blume said. But – the actual outside was covered in snow.

Elden Blume had plans to go to tech school out of town. He would still keep tabs on the trailer, and come back “once or twice a week in winter.” He foresaw business growth. After his time at tech school, he planned to come home to the family businesses full-time. “It’ll end up being his job.” Kellie Blume said.

Future plans included opening a commercial kitchen on the property. This would allow consumers to purchase items directly. Also, Elden Blume said, “The commercial kitchen would allow us to expand into new products like bread, pickles, frozen foods, and sweet corn.” The kitchen would be licensed by the state.

Expansion plans also included getting into more grocery stores and restaurants. Another plan was possibly having solar panels on the trailer. “That would make it really profitable then.” Elden Blume said. It would save energy costs. “If we got solar panels, we’d be growing food, and impacting nothing, really – besides a little bit of water.” he added.

Elden Blume grew up on a family farm. His plans included returning after attending tech school. He would still work with his family. “Nothing would really change, I guess.” he said. He didn’t see that as a negative thing. “It is nice. Most kids, they have that big step in their lives. Me, I’m taking that big step, but I’m still surrounded by family.” he added.

Kellie Blume wasn’t worried. “I think you’ve been an adult for about 10 years.” she said to him with a smile. “He’s very responsible.” she added. The benefits of being able to work with loved ones was discussed as well.

Elden Blume would tell those wanting to get into hydroponics agriculture that “it’s complicated.” He elaborated: “You’re growing a completely new crop around here, with no experience, or no one to even go ask for advice. So you’ve pretty much gotta do your research online and make it work for yourself.” Some beneficial personality traits, per Kellie and Elden Blume, would be: being adventurous, love of gardening, willingness to do hard work, and patience. “There’s a lot of trial and error at the beginning.” Kellie Blume said. Elden Blume added “I’m still trying to figure out a lot of them.”

Kellie Blume remarked on Elden Blume’s dedication to the project. “He’s great at it. He just loves what he does. It’s not work if you love it. He’s always over there. He did so much with FFA, which I think was a really great deal with him.” Elden Blume won the Star in Agribusiness award in FFA this year. He was also part of the team that placed 1st in Poultry.

Elden Blume said that he’d received positive feedback for his business ventures. “I know a couple of people that won’t buy any other egg brand besides mine, because of the freshness.” he said. His sweet corn was also wanted because of its freshness.

He emphasized product quality. “All of our products are preservative-free, farm fresh.” he said. This was important. “When you can pick a product and deliver it within 48 hours, it improves the quality of the product. It makes the consumers happy.” he said. Along with posting delivery times and locations, Elden Blume might post “a nice sunset picture on the farm.” (The company was found on Facebook under Blume Foods LLC.) The Blumes said that they hoped to get the word out about their business and hydroponics. Maybe more people will start.