Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Biological Engineering

Degree Level



Biological and Agricultural Engineering


Matlock, Marty D.

Committee Member/Reader

Matlock, Marty D.

Committee Member/Second Reader

Costello, Thomas

Committee Member/Third Reader

Chidiac, Joseph


Hydroponics is an agricultural technology that involves growing plants without soil, instead using other growth media with added nutrients, typically inside a controlled facility such as a greenhouse. Hydroponics-based agriculture has a number of benefits, namely that it is more water efficient, requires less intensive labor, yields higher quality crops consistently in shorter time, and is easier to control. It also has the potential to be economically advantageous, due to its ability to grow certain crops in the off-season. In Fayetteville, Arkansas, a non-profit urban farm known as Tri Cycle Farms has been seeking a way to design, build, and implement a profitable hydroponics-based greenhouse in order to better offset their costs of operation. Tri Cycle Farms operates off of the motto of “Give a Third, Sell a Third, and Share a Third” of their produce, and currently does not have any paid staff. Tri Cycle tends to give and share more of its produce than they sell, and while admirable, makes it difficult to keep their doors open. After getting involved with Tri Cycle Farms as volunteers and consulting with Don Bennett, the owner, Sarah Gould and I decided to take on the initial stages of design for this hydroponics greenhouse, or “HydroHouse.” The objectives of this project are to 1) size and design the lighting needs for a hydroponic subsystem of Dutch buckets in the house based on Ms. Gould’s work, and 2) to produce a general set of engineering economics calculations and recommendations. This report includes the process of fulfilling these objectives, the justification behind various design decisions, and a discussion of the future work to be completed and the future impacts of the greenhouse for Tri Cycle Farms and the Northwest Arkansas community in general. As a conservative estimate, ten LED grow lights were determined to be needed for the Dutch bucket system based on the light requirements for tomatoes. Additionally, the simple payback period for the Dutch bucket system was calculated to be 0.43 years, or 5.1 months, with a Gross Annual Benefit of $20,000 for the first year, and $34,000 in following years.


Hydroponics; LED Lighting; Social Innovations; Greenhouse Agriculture; Horticulture