Ogallala Greens farmers Cory Roof and Austin Ochoa are on a mission to feed the South Plains through a series of hydroponic systems.
Two Lubbock natives with a passion for providing healthy food options to the region, Roof and Ochoa started Ogallala Greens to ease the environmental strain of agriculture on the region while also offering the area with high quality produce that can be found in other metroplexes. Today, Lubbock sources majority of its greens from Southern California. With Ogallala Greens, which is looking to expand its operations and deliver food in addition to its already existing online retail and participation at the farmers market, locals and restaurant owners will have the opportunity of sourcing longer-lasting, flavorful food that was grown just 30 miles east of Lubbock.
As a generational farmer, Roof attributes his initial interest in farmer to his DNA. Growing up with agricultural roots, he found his way back in 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic helped him realize he could pursue a different path. Throughout his career, Roof has been an integral member of many teams that built and operated some of the most advanced greenhouses in the world while in his position at Plenty.
Spurring a passion, Roof returned home with the skillset he had acquired a Plenty and technology to grow 25,000 plants per month.
In 2021, Roof and his longtime friend and new business partner, Ochoa, were chosen to participate in the Texas Tech University Innovation Hub at Research Park where he was granted $25,000 as a member of the Accelerator Program. Through the program, the team was given mentorship as well as the resources needed to grow the farm into what it is today.
With the help of the Accelerator Program, the pair built their first greenhouse of many to come. Inside the structure nearly 4,000 plants are grown per month, with room to grow. Using a hydroponic system, Roof pumps water out of the ground and then moves to clean it through reverse osmosis. He then collects the clean water into a large plastic barrel and uses computer technology to monitor the nutrient levels and adjusts according to the needs of the water. Next, it is pumped into the water tower and the gravity pressure distributes the water to the plants. Finally, using the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), the plant takes nutrients from the thin top of water where the water meets the air, as it is more nutrient dense. This process is equipped with favorable year-round growing conditions and use minimal water, which is one of the major values of the company.
Ogallala Greens aims to ease the pressure on the Ogallala Aquifer, the company’s namesake, and the main water source for farming from Texas to South Dakota. Today, the aquifer is nearly 70% depleted, with minimal chance of replenishing as it takes thousands of years to fill. The hydroponic farm system created by Roof uses up to 95% less water than traditional farming.
Another major challenge to West Texas agriculture, which was established as a food desert, is the warming climate. Local landowners are looking to new technology in order to preserve the legacy and pass it on after their retirement. To maintain the agricultural identity of the area, hydroponic systems and other similar technology will be catalytic in combating these challenges facing farmers.
Roof and Ochoa are looking to the future with plans of adding more greenhouses, outdoor crops and creating connections with local grocery store chains as well as restaurants to source greens from their farm. For more information and to become of member of the Community Supported Agriculture visit their website! To hear more stories about what is growing in Lubbock, visit lubbockeda.org.