Former Wedding Organizer Builds Green Energy
In Klong Sam Wa District sits Res-Q Farm: a 3.5-acre property that runs on 100% green energy, is 100% organic, and boasts a wide variety of farming techniques to grow fruits, flowers, and vegetables which are served in a café on site.
But why would a former wedding organizer who hates vegetables go to all the trouble of making this happen? I visited the farm to learn about how this project came to be and what kinds of hurdles it needed to overcome.
This farm is the brainchild of Wira Sornsadang, a former wedding organizer to the stars. He began the farm soon after he retired for two simple reasons: his wife wanted a farm, and he loves his wife.
However, Wira had no interest in just running a normal farm. This is a man who enjoys a good challenge. He wanted to grow a bit of everything under difficult conditions.
It was also important to him that this farm be entirely sustainable. Five years ago, he rented a plot of land near his house and got to work. Of course, this plot happened to be a swamp that everyone said you couldn’t grow anything out of. That simply lit a fire under Wira.
The Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) economy is a very important concept in this day and age. Wira took this to heart and went the extra mile in the design of the farm.
One of the first things you’ll notice upon visiting Res-Q Farm is that it is surrounded by pine trees. These trees grow very quickly and are quite dense making them very effective wind blocks. This is important in a farm that uses natural evaporation from water on the farm buildings to cool everything down.
The trees have an additional benefit. Pine needles are a great natural barrier against weeds as they are very acidic and coat the ground at the base of the trees, preventing other plants from growing and invading the farm. When the pine needles build up, Wira simply collects and burns them. Burned pine needles lose their acidity and are a great ingredient for revitalizing ponds. On top of all of this, the trees only cost three baht each when Wira bought them.
Learn more: The BCG Impact on Thailand’s Food Industry
Nearly all of the buildings on site are constructed out of recycled waste products and renewable material. Old windows and tables are now walls. Roofs are often thatched using leaves. The stage is built out of the remains of various events. Some of the greenhouses were once wedding tents. What initially appears to be metal columns are actually just painted bamboo poles. Truly, the entire property has ingenuity and creativity on display at every turn.
The property has a few animals as well. Beehives provide a consistent supply of honey, and two spoiled horses wander around providing a consistent demand for snacks and attention.
Growing things organically can often be easier said than done. One of the biggest challenges is insects. How do you prevent insects from eating all your hard grown crops without using insecticide?
Res-Q Farm has a number of interesting strategies to handle this very issue. Many of the fruits and vegetables grown on the farm are done so in greenhouses. The ponds around the property are all full of koi fish and frogs who like to eat insects. There are even certain trees grown near the back of the property that serve as insect bait. Other plants grown on the farm like herbs and flowers aren’t eaten by insects so can simply be grown out in the open.
A zero-baht power bill
While yes, these days you can simply buy a bunch of solar panels and install them, that in and of itself has a cost. Res-Q Farm takes this concept one step further.
How can you reduce the energy cost of the farm in order to use the minimum amount of solar panels? Solar panels, while green, do require a fair amount of resources to build and a fair amount of money to buy (although their cost is becoming significantly cheaper).
Wira begins with the design of the solar panels themselves. Most solar panel setups require a controller and a battery, which often make up half of the overall cost. Wira does away with these in favor of running the solar panels to water pumps directly. The pumps do one thing: move water from low elevation to high elevation. The water is then released into the hydroponic greenhouses to feed the plants, and over the roofs of the buildings to naturally cool them down through evaporation.
Storing the water this way means it can be released from the reservoir even when there is no sun. In fact, you can take this one step further and have the water spin a generator on its way down, just like in a hydroelectric dam.
Cooling buildings through evaporation is a concept that has been around in Thailand for a long time. With the advent of air conditioners, we often forget that building houses near or above water has the added benefit of cooling them down significantly.
Another area where Wira has used natural energy is in his drying house. Greenhouses get rather hot. They are quite good at absorbing heat and keeping it. In cold countries, this is great because it allows people to grow things out of season. In hot countries, this poses a challenge. Unless they are cooled down, many greenhouses are too hot to grow plants.
Wira uses this fact and dials it up by building a drying house that gets exceedingly hot on purpose. Here, he brings all of the edible flowers and teas to dry on trays.
Farm to table
As Res-Q Farm began to take shape, people began to take notice. Visitors would show up to the property asking to take a look. Wira began running free tours, showcasing his various strategies and providing advice to anyone who was interested. Inevitably, some of these visitors would get hungry.
Wira came up with another solution. Most of the food products we consume require a fair amount of transportation before they reach our table. By opening up the Res-Q Cafe on site, all the produce grown on the property can simply be brought over by hand, eliminating the need for transportation entirely.
The hydroponic greenhouses grow lettuce in 45 days. There are 45 rows. Each row provides just enough for the café each day. Once the supply is finished the item is no longer served for the rest of the day. This avoids the need for stockpiling and ensures that every dish is as fresh as possible.
The food served at the café is divine. From edible flower salads to coal-fired pizzas to kale smoothies with honey, all the dishes incorporate items grown on the property in some way.
Reasons to visit
Today, Wira still offers up his knowledge to all visitors for free. He hopes to spread what he has learned and encourage the next generation to incorporate sustainable ideas that can make farming more profitable and fun.
The farm itself is a great place to visit, both if you’re looking to gain some insight into new techniques, or if you simply want to explore the property and try some of the delicious food.
Res-Q Farm is one of those special places that can truly inspire you. I can’t recommend it enough.