Earthbox : If I could build me a box above the ground that I could grow tomatoes in (Google / VOA)

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Growing Plants and Thinking Inside the Box

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. Today, we tell about an American farmer and an unusual device he developed. For nearly twenty years, people around the world have been buying his invention.


JIM TEDDER: Blake Whisenant and his family are farmers. They live in the American state of Florida. For nearly a hundred years, Mr. Whisenant’s family has grown fruits and vegetables, and sold them to businesses around the world. The warm weather in central Florida is good for growing crops, especially tomatoes. That is what he grows the most of on his eight hundred hectares of land.

In nineteen ninety-two, Mr. Whisenant had some bad luck.


It began to rain. And it rained. And it rained some more. Nearly fifty centimeters of rain destroyed the tomato crop that year.

JIM TEDDER: Blake Whisenant was not a happy farmer.


BLAKE WHISENANT:  “I just thought there’s got to be a better way!”

So, he began looking to find a way to make sure this never happened again. He wanted to develop a system that would provide water to the plants from below. He thought some kind of cover would keep rain away and the soil warm. He wanted the plants to be grown in a box that would take up little space. He became obsessed with the idea and thought about it day and night.

BLAKE WHISENANT:  “And I told my wife, before I die I wanted to see if I could build me a box above the ground that I could grow tomatoes in.”



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.