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Hydroponic tomato grower has good first year

justine wettschreck/daily globe Dan Pierson stands with his tomatoes inside the greenhouse at Three Acre Farm in Slayton.

SLAYTON -- More than 200 tomato plants are lined up like soldiers and laden with fruit in the greenhouse at Three Acre Farm.

Dan Pierson of Slayton started the hydroponic tomato business this summer, with help from the Slayton and Murray County Economic Development Authority (EDA). On Erlandson Avenue in the city's industrial park, Pierson is making use of two lots that have been empty since the 1970s, he said.

"The EDA worked with me to get something going, and it was a win/win situation for everyone," Pierson said.

He got a bit of a late start on the growing portion of the business because he was busy building the greenhouse that holds the plants -- a project he started in the dead of winter. The floor of his greenhouse is heated, as are water lines that run along the bottom of the plants.

A vining variety of tomatoes, the plants' roots are in buckets of perlite, and each vine stretches several feet down the row, where it is attached to a line that runs the length of the greenhouse. As the vine grows, Pierson slides the end of the vice farther down the line.

Even though the weather has taken a turn toward winter, Pierson still has vine-ripened tomatoes every day. Alas, all good things must come to an end, so Pieron will pull the plants in mid-December and start new seedlings a few weeks later. He expects to start selling tomatoes again by April.

"It takes about three months from seed to fruit," he explained. "So the store will be closed for about three months."