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Campo Caribe: Transforming Tropical Farming With High-Tech Innovation

Jonah Helmer Head Shot
Campo Caribe Head Grower Jonah Helmer

Located in the mountains of Barranquitas, Campo Caribe is officially on its way to providing fresh produce to Puerto Rican families, creating new jobs and reducing the island’s dependence on imports. Following last week’s press conference where Puerto Rico’s Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi announced the expansion of  the agricultural project’s state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse operation — the largest in the Caribbean – Indoor Ag-Con spoke with Campo Caribe’s Head Grower Jonah Helmer. Read on as he shares the cutting-edge technologies and innovative strategies the team is implementing to overcome tropical weather challenges, optimize growing conditions, and sustainably produce fresh, high-quality lettuce year-round.

Can you share how Campo Caribe will be leveraging its unique location in the central mountains of Puerto Rico to optimize growing conditions and mitigate the challenges posed by the tropical island environment, such as hurricanes and extreme weather fluctuations?

Campo Caribe
Campo Caribe commercial greenhouse in the mountains of Puerto Rico

With our location in the central mountains of Puerto Rico, Campo Caribe has climatic advantages, including high levels of sunlight and mostly moderate temperatures due to the higher elevation. However, there are some additional issues we face in our tropical island location, such as risk of hurricanes, periods of excessive sunlight, frequent rain events, periods of low humidity and of excessive humidity, and periods of extreme air and irrigation water temperatures.

To control these variables, Campo Caribe is building one of the most technologically advanced and sustainable lettuce greenhouses in the Caribbean. At 5.5 acres, this is the largest hydroponic greenhouse in the Caribbean and the largest of only 3 greenhouses in the world combining the Cravo retractable roof structure and Hydronov deep water culture growing system. The Cravo retractable roof and shading system allows us to passively cool our greenhouse throughout the day. We can open the roof to maximize our light levels during cloudy periods and close the roof and shade system to reduce peak light intensity. We grow our lettuce in deep water culture, which uses a greater water volume to buffer fluctuations in water and air temperature around the plant. We added a Vifra high pressure fogging system to maintain optimal humidity levels for our plants to help them transpire, photosynthesize, and maximize growth all day long without becoming water stressed under the strong tropical sun.

Campo Caribe Research Greenhouse
Prior to completion of its commercial greenhouse, Campo Caribe built research and development greenhouses.

Our unique combination of location, facility design, growing equipment, and controls systems allows us to overcome these issues and puts us on the cutting edge of the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry. This makes our facility more productive, energy efficient, and sustainable than those of our competitors, and makes our products tastier and healthier for our customers. Our greenhouse is built to withstand hurricane force winds up to 165 mph and will allow us to achieve a higher order fulfillment rate for Puerto Rican businesses.

The integration of the Cravo retractable roof structure and Hydronov deep water culture growing system are distinguishing features of Campo Caribe. Can you explain how this combination enhances plant growth and resource efficiency compared to traditional greenhouse setups?

Cravo Retractable Roof Campo Caribe
Cravo retractable roof

Conventional glass and plastic greenhouses are not designed to operate in tropical climates with high temperatures and humidities all year round. The Cravo greenhouse allows us to optimize the aerial environment around the leaves of the plants in our hot climate while the Hydronov deep water culture system provides deep, cool, and oxygenated reservoirs of recirculating nutrient solution that will support plant growth even with severe fluctuations in temperatures and interruptions in power supply that can occur in Puerto Rico.

The roof and sides of the Cravo greenhouse fully retract allowing us to combine the benefits of outdoor and CEA production systems to enhance plant growth. By maximizing natural sunlight and controlling the environment, Campo Caribe is able to exceed the average yields of lettuce grown in deep water culture without the use of any artificial lighting and with lower chemical inputs.

The retractable roof prevents the excess heat buildup that occurs in conventional greenhouses and ensures that we have uniform growing conditions throughout the 5.5 acre structure. Retractable cooling curtains help regulate the sunlight and air temperatures, while our high-pressure fogging system and horizontal airflow fans optimize the humidity levels around the leaf surface.

Campo Caribe uses minimal electricity since the retractable roofs and cooling curtains consume only 2-3 kw hours of electricity per day per hectare compared to over 1000 kw hours for conventional greenhouses cooled with cooling pads and fans. We are not using any supplemental lighting to grow our lettuce, which saves a significant amount of energy and expense compared to greenhouses in higher latitudes.

Tropical climates provide favorable conditions for foliar and root diseases due to consistently warm temperatures and high humidity and precipitation levels. Hydronov designed our growing system to reduce risk of crop loss from disease and improve productivity. Our growing system features 16 independent production ponds, each fed with ozone sterilized source water to prevent the introduction of water-borne pests and diseases into the ponds. We have precise control systems for the water temperature and oxygen concentration of our growing solution to further reduce disease risk and improve plant health to make our product top in quality and in safety.

The use of rainwater collection and high-pressure fogging systems reflects a commitment to resource efficiency and environmental sustainability. Could you elaborate on how these systems contribute to Campo Caribe’s overall sustainability goals and operational efficiency?

Campo Caribe Packaging
Campo Caribe’s lettuce will come in butterhead, romaine and spring mix varieties, and will be available in supermarkets and restaurants around the island, as well as at a direct sales stand at the farm’s facilities in Barranquitas.

Campo Caribe designed our production systems to improve the sustainability and reliability of produce available in Puerto Rico. By replacing imports with locally grown produce, Campo Caribe will help decrease Puerto Rico’s dependency on imported food, which currently stands at approximately 85%. The majority of lettuce available in Puerto Rico is grown in California or Arizona and shipped by truck and by boat to the island. It is not uncommon for some of this produce to go bad during this long journey and be wasted before it gets to consumers, contributing to higher carbon emissions.

To conserve resources, Campo Caribe utilizes collected rainwater from the roof of the greenhouse as the primary water source for the facility and saves 90% more water than conventional outdoor lettuce farms. By collecting and using our rainwater, Campo Caribe can support its production with less reliance on municipal or well water. This helps us to produce a reliable supply of lettuce for our customers all year round.

General Manager, Zuleyka Mendoza, and Farm Supervisor, Andrea Baez, in Research Greenhouse
Campo Caribe General Manager, Zuleyka Mendoza, and Farm Supervisor, Andrea Baez, in research greenhouse

The Cravo retractable roof structure significantly reduces the amount of energy used to vent and cool the greenhouse, but high solar radiation levels can cause severe spikes in air temperature and drops in humidity levels. To prevent our plants from getting water stressed, we have installed a Vifra high pressure fogging system to maintain optimal humidity levels and cool down peak air temperatures. Vifra’s high pressure fogging system produces water droplets 1 micron in size that evaporate immediately in the air, increasing humidity without wetting the leaf surface, which reduces risk of foliar disease.

The high pressure fogging system will work in combination with the retractable cooling curtains to reduce peak temperatures making our greenhouse more resistant to extreme temperatures caused by climate change. By maintaining optimal humidity levels during hot summer days, our crop will not become water stressed and instead can take full advantage of the sun’s energy to grow faster and yield more. The high pressure fogging system will only be required for several hours per day when the humidity levels drop below 60% which will reduce the amount of fresh water for cooling by over 95% compared to conventional pad and fan cooled greenhouses.

The Priva Control System will play a key role in maintaining optimal growing conditions. Can you discuss how this system improves operational efficiency and ensures consistent yields – particularly in a high-tech greenhouse environment like Campo Caribe?

Campo Caribe Commercial Greenhouse Pond Recirculation Corridor
Campo Caribe greenhouse pond recirculation corridor

Campo Caribe selected a Priva climate control system to monitor and control all climate variables and control the irrigation system in our greenhouse. Priva (based in De Lier, Holland) is a global leader in CEA control systems, developing software, hardware, and services for the horticulture industry worldwide. We collaborated with Priva partner, Borlaug, in designing, developing, manufacturing, shipping, installing, and commissioning our climate control system. Priva integrates with the Cravo greenhouse and production equipment so we can monitor and control the climate conditions in our greenhouse from anywhere with an internet connection via their online platform. We can monitor and control the air temperature, humidity level, light level, CO2 concentration, wind speed, and leaf temperature in the greenhouse. For each independent recirculating pond we can precisely add pH and nutrient adjusted solutions using a Priva Nutrifit system and monitor the pH, EC, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP) in real time.

The Priva system notifies growing staff if climate variables are out of range so actions can be taken to resolve problems quickly and to return to optimal conditions. This high level of control and monitoring allows Campo Caribe to optimize the growing conditions at all times to produce high quality lettuce all year round, empowering the farm to hit 95% fulfillment for our customers.

Energy efficiency is a significant focus for Campo Caribe, as demonstrated by your energy management system and facility design. How do these systems contribute to reducing overall energy consumption while still meeting the demands of a large-scale lettuce operation – and what are the expected benefits in terms of cost savings and environmental impact?

Campo Caribe Team with Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi
Campo Caribe Team with Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi at press conference

To reduce our daily electrical usage, Campo Caribe is utilizing a Deep Sea Electronics generator controller to perform advanced electrical dispatching and integrate with Priva and the major loads of the facility. An easily programable load shed system turns off major electrical loads in the facility to save energy and to prevent overloading our electrical service and back-up generator. We prioritize the dispatching of power to equipment needed to maintain an optimal production climate for our plants including operations of the greenhouse roof and shade curtains, fogging system, and water recirculation pumps. We will only run some equipment at night, such as the Priva Nutrifit, to fill up the production ponds in order to reduce power consumption during the day when we are harvesting and packaging.

Other parts of our operation including the refrigerated warehouse were designed to maximize energy efficiency. Excess insulation in the warehouse and packing room coupled with fast acting roll-up doors will maintain cold food safe temperatures using less energy from the cycling of condensing units.

In case of electrical outages, we have a back-up generator that can support the entire facility. We are continuing our research to determine when our peak power demand occurs, and we are working with Ageto Energy to provide for a variety of power sources in the future. Ageto Energy’s ARC system will ultimately act as the single interface for the disparate energy resources and will optimize to provide the cheapest, cleanest, and most reliable power.

This unique power system and facility design allows us to be more reliable in the face of power outages and storms and provide a more sustainable product with less carbon emissions for our customers.

 

Learn more about Campo Caribe and keep up with its progress here — www.campocaribe.com 

Press Conference With Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi
Puerto Rico Governor and General Manager in Research Greenhouse
Puerto Rico Governor and General Manager in Campo Caribe Research Greenhouse

Campo Caribe hosted a press conference on Monday, May 13 where Puerto Rico Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi and other officials participated in the announcement of the company’s expansion plans. Check out some of the press coverage from outlets, including:

Sin Comillas.com, Ey Boricua, WIPR, WAPA

 

 

How indoor farms can strengthen the fresh produce supply of outdoor growers

From Vertical Farm Daily:

“There’s a bigger chance of crop failure for outdoor growers not to deliver, because of weather. We should continue to balance it out with CEA produce. However, as a retailer, if you only want to sell indoor produce, there aren’t dozens of suppliers to buy from,” says Vonnie Estes, Vice President of Innovation, International Fresh Produce Association.

Having worked in fresh produce for decades, Vonnie is keeping busy with technology in agriculture that’s used throughout the entire supply chain. Currently, she devotes most of her time to climate change and labor shortages, trying to find an answer on how to mitigate and respond to these shifts. Reflecting on a rocky couple of years within the CEA industry, Vonnie reassures that indoor growers will be able to lock in contracts with retail, “Especially if you’re a producer with a strong track record.” However, as a new farm that might be a bit harder, especially when making big promises that cannot be lived up to. New farms will have to show a pathway to profitability and proof that they can stay in business to deliver quality products on contracts.

“When there’s a shortage due to weather events in open-field production, the trading desks come in trying to fill up the gaps which happens all the time in outdoor-grown. They have built a bigger infrastructure and more growers to pull from over time. Most indoor growers are selling directly to retailers so for the most part do not go through trading desks. As we have more indoor growers and larger supply, indoor will also be able to fill these gaps,” Vonnie elaborates.

Read the full story from Vertical Farm Daily here…

DryGair Is Saving Energy and Improving Yields Across N. American Horticulture

Dehumidification system manufacturer, DryGair (Indoor Ag-Con Booth 207), has been at the forefront of the horticulture humidity control market since its inception in 2010. The company has recently established its N. America branch, in order to better serve the U.S. and Canadian markets, as the system is becoming more and more popular, in a wider variety of crops.

Director of the N. America branch, Douglas Miller, mentions DryGair’s success in Europe, most notably in the Netherlands.

“Growers in Europe have been using DryGair for a long time, in a variety of different crops and facilities. It’s become a staple, especially in flowers and other ornamental plants, as well as herbs, leafy greens, and many types of vegetable and vine crops.”

Growers Use DryGair for a Variety of Benefits

The patented dehumidification system was developed at the Volcani Agricultural Research Center, as one of the first solutions for active humidity reduction in horticultural environments. Advanced greenhouses were quick to adopt the technology, as it was shown to not only prevent diseases and improve yields, but also save a significant amount of energy.

“When people think of dehumidification, they think of mold prevention”, Miller says. “But it’s much more than that. Maintaining an ideal relative humidity range, coupled with a uniform climate (thanks to DryGair’s patented air circulation mechanism), has a major impact on the crop. It creates an active climate that stimulates growth and improves quality.”

“The system also saves a lot of energy. By making ventilation unnecessary, you can retain heat inside, which significantly reduces heating requirements. We’ve seen an average of 50% savings, compared to traditional humidity control methods, in trials and customer experiences.”

DryGair’s Success in the Cannabis Sector

In contrast to the European markets, in the U.S. and Canada, DryGair was mostly popularized in cannabis production.

“We’ve had a lot of success in commercial and medical cannabis production in the U.S. and Canada. Cannabis growers were early adopters, quickly realizing that effective humidity control can make or break entire grow cycles” Miller mentions.

“Of course, when it comes to cannabis, humidity control is extremely important, as it’s the main tool for mold prevention. It’s necessary in all stages of cultivation and is actually a GMP requirement for medicinal cannabis production.”

Popularizing Dehumidification in Vegetable and Flower Cultivation

“However, more and more ‘traditional’ growers have been taking note.” Miller adds. “Vegetable, flower, and potted plant growers are realizing the benefits their counterparts across the world are reaping.”

Drygair At Indoor Ag-Con 2024Once growers understand that this tool can both improve yields and reduce costs, it’s an easy decision,” he adds.

DryGair will be presenting their humidity control solution at the upcoming Indoor Ag-Con. Visit the company at booth #207 to discuss effective humidity control and energy savings possibilities for your facility.

Jiffy to Showcase Sustainable, Automation-Ready Solutions at Indoor Ag-Con 2024 | Booth 1012

Jiffy Group looks forward to exhibiting at Indoor Ag-Con March 11-12, 2024, at Caesars Forum Conference Center in Las Vegas.

At Jiffy, we recognize that Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) growers are constantly weighing multiple factors when selecting substrate for various hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic systems.

We have worked alongside many CEA growers to help increase cost savings on inputs and reduce costs on labor by offering solutions that are both environmentally sound and easily compatible with automated systems.

Visit us at Indoor Ag-Con Booth #1012 to see our many innovative solutions and allow us to demonstrate how we can help you achieve more efficient and sustainable growing operations.

Streamlining CEA solutions

The high technology, sustainable and certified solution you are looking for to improve yield and maximize your production with more convenience.

Jiffy’s cost-effective solutions provide the key benefits of helping you attain high germination and yields in a variety of CEA production systems.

Jiffy Pellets and Jiffy Preforma, for example, are cost-effective growing media solutions that are well-suited for leafy greens and herb growers who utilize nutrient film technique (NFT) and deep water culture hydroponic systems.

• Pellets include growing media—either peat, RHP-certified coconut coir, or a mix—in an open wall, and a biodegradable, compostable PLA net. You can purchase pellets in various sizes. Jiffy-7 pellets are shipped dry to save space in storage and maximize freight cost. They then expand upon watering ready for seeding and germination.

• With Preforma, growers can select between multiple peat and coir substrate mixes and tray and dibble sizes. Jiffy designs and formulates Preforma plugs as a ready-to-use growing solution using a substrate binder. This helps the plugs retain optimal physical properties throughout various automated processes such as transplanting.

For growers producing vine crops or strawberries in gutter-based systems with drip irrigation, we recommend our Growbags (including EasyFill Growbags) or loose fill mixes.

Jiffy also offers other products to help with your needs, such as Jiffy Growblocks, which are a great combination with Growbags. Jiffy Pots are the preferred choice for growers with hydroponics systems because they offer several key benefits, not only related to crop quality and quantity but also contribute to the sustainability and profitability of operations.

As you work with us to fulfill your substrate needs, you will also benefit from our global supply chain and sales force, advanced handling of raw materials, and certifications ensuring success at every step.

Adhering to the highest standards

At Jiffy, we prioritize the safety, sustainability, and quality of our products and processes.

Our production facilities are certified with various ISO certification standards: ISO 22000 for food safety, ISO 14001 for sustainability, and ISO 9001 for quality. All our operations are also compliant with California’s Proposition 65. These certifications ensure that the media provided is of the highest quality produced to specifications that allow for optimal results.

For some products and production locations, Jiffy has obtained the quality mark from RHP, the nonprofit European knowledge center for growing media, certifying that raw materials and products meet strict quality and sustainability standards. We also offer a range of OMRI listed organic, 0% plastic, and peat-free solutions helping you to achieve your sustainability goals.

Let’s work together

Opportunities abound for the CEA industry to feed an expanding global population, and Jiffy is glad to assist growers by offering them many customized solutions.

As we further our commitment to the industry, we will be opening a new Preforma factory on the West Coast of the United States in Fall 2024.

We look forward to working with you to make sure your operation is a continued success. Come visit us at Indoor Ag-Con Booth #1012, and let’s grow together.

 

 

Little Leaf Farms CEO: Navigating Sustainable Growth and Fresh Innovations

Join us for this month’s Q&A with Paul Sellew, the forward-thinking Founder & CEO of Little Leaf Farms, the largest U.S. greenhouse producer of hydroponic baby greens.   As the opening morning keynote speaker for the March 11-12, 2024 edition of Indoor Ag-Con, Paul sheds light on the challenges and opportunities of expanding Little Leaf Farms’ footprint, the eco-friendly practices that set it apart, and the company’s commitment to a farmer-first mindset.  From becoming the top-selling lettuce in New England to doubling production capacity with the recent expansion into McAdoo, PA, Sellew gives a glimpse into the company’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and its exciting plans for the future.

Given Little Leaf Farms’ recent milestone of becoming the #1 best-selling packaged lettuce in New England and the opening of a new greenhouse in McAdoo, PA, what challenges and opportunities do you foresee in expanding your footprint to new regions – and how does this contribute to your goal of reaching 100 acres under glass by 2026?
Little Leaf Farms.Packaging

When we opened our first greenhouse, we set out to build a more resilient food system and have pioneered a peri-urban approach in controlled environment agriculture. This means that our greenhouses are built in the surrounding regions of major urban centers to minimize the amount our leafy greens have to travel to reach the consumer, resulting in a lettuce that lasts longer and tastes better. We know this is the right model to enable us to bring our leafy greens to markets all over the country and are confident that once consumers in those new markets try our lettuce, they’ll never go back.

Little Leaf emphasizes sustainability. Can you highlight specific environmental practices that set the company apart and resonate with consumers?

Little Leaf Farms Indoor Ag-ContentEvery step of our growing process was designed to limit our impact on the planet. For example, we utilize captured rainwater in our soil-less farming, which results in 90% less water usage than field-grown greens. Plus our greenhouse locations are in regions with high natural precipitation and not dependent on groundwater as the west coast growers do.  . Our Devens, MA greenhouse gets 45 inches of rain per year alone and we use all of it, whereas Salinas, California sees only 10 inches of rain per year.

Our greenhouses are also built to maximize the free power of the sun, enabling us to grow our leafy greens with natural sunlight and solar-powered energy. We’re also using space much more efficiently and have 30 times more yield than conventional farms. In fact, 10 acres of our indoor greenhouse replaces 300 acres in a traditional farm. Our packages are just as important to our process, which is why they’re made from 100% post-consumer PET, which makes them infinitely recyclable and provides a much longer shelf life, too.

In a competitive market environment, what sets Little Leaf Farms apart, and how do you plan to maintain your leadership position as you expand to new markets?

Little Leaf Farms.ProcessWe have always approached growing lettuce as a farming company, rather than a tech company. While we are technologists and our technology is cutting-edge, our priority is growing sustainable, local lettuce that most importantly, tastes great. Our lettuce arrives on grocery store shelves within 24 hours of harvesting, spending less time traveling than most other lettuces. This, in addition to our highly automated system and sustainable growing practices, results in fresh, flavorful leafy greens that remain crispy a remarkably long time after purchase. At the end of the day, we’re growing food. People want to buy and eat what tastes good, and our amazing taste is what’s going to continue to be the differentiator for us.  We’ve also grown our business in a way that gives us the ability to scale profitably and better service our retailers, which is going to continue to put us in a position to challenge and compete with field-grown brands as we enter new markets. We’ve surpassed field-grown greens in New England and I’m confident we can replicate that success in other markets across the country as we grow.

In discussing the company’s success, you’ve mentioned maintaining a “farming company” mindset rather than a “tech play” approach.  Can you elaborate on how this mindset influences decision-making, innovation, and the overall character of Little Leaf, especially considering the evolving landscape of technology in agriculture?

Little Leaf Farms. PAOur business is about farming, and we consider farming a people-based business that puts the crop first. This mindset enables us to recruit the best team of growers, R&D staff, operations staff, and more to carry out our mission of growing fresh leafy greens for all. The farmer-first mindset also reinforces our commitment to growing a product that tastes great and that people actually want to eat, which ties directly to our mission of bringing fresh, leafy greens for all.

What’s next for Little Leaf Farms?

Our current focus is on getting our leafy greens to as many consumers as possible. Our recent expansion into McAdoo, PA has not only doubled our production capacity but has increased our retail presence to nearly 5,000 stores, expanding our footprint to include retailers in the Midwest and Southeast.

Little Leaf Farms.PA 2We’ve also expanded our product line to now offer salad kits made with our signature Baby Crispy Green Leaf lettuce, which had an initial launch in the Northeast this fall but will be expanding to our full distribution footprint in January 2024.

Learn more about Little Leaf Farms by visiting the website.  And, make plans now to join us for Indoor Ag-Con 2024 to hear Paul’s opening morning keynote address at 8 am on Monday, March 11, 2024!

Gotham Greens Expands Into the Southeast With Georgia Greenhouse Opening

NEW YORK, Oct. 11, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Gotham Greens, a Certified B Corporation™ and one of the fastest growing indoor farming brands, today announced the opening of its first high-tech hydroponic greenhouse in the Southeast region and the company’s twelfth greenhouse nationwide. The 210,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility in Monroe, Ga., located between Atlanta and Athens, Ga., is the company’s second of three new greenhouses opening in 2023. The greenhouse will provide a year-round supply of Georgia Grown, fresh produce to retail, restaurant, and foodservice customers throughout the region, including Whole Foods Market, Publix, Harris Teeter, The Fresh Market, and more. This includes new offerings, such as the regionally-inspired Coastal Crunch lettuce and family size packs of the best-selling Butterhead and Gourmet Spring Mix.

“As we celebrate National Farmer’s Day, this expansion into the South is a pivotal moment for Gotham Greens and brings us one step closer to our goal of being able to deliver Gotham Greens fresh produce within a day’s drive from our greenhouses to 90% of consumers across the U.S.” said Viraj Puri, Co-Founder and CEO of Gotham Greens. “Our new Georgia greenhouse is the largest, most technologically advanced we’ve ever built and uses enhanced automation, climate control and data science capabilities to ensure that our greens are not only delicious, but also consistent and reliable for our customers.”

The greenhouse boasts sophisticated new technology to overcome the region’s hot, humid climate and ensure all leafy greens and herbs meet the standard consumers nationwide have come to associate with and expect from the brand. In contrast to traditional open-field farming methods, Gotham Greens farms use up to 90% less water and 97% less land compared to conventional farming methods and provide a consistent and proven way of growing food closer to where people live. While field crops are especially vulnerable to the elements such as heavy rains or drought, the fully closed greenhouse system provides protection and reliability for customers.

“Gotham Greens’ new, state-of-the-art greenhouse facility in Monroe will deploy the latest, cutting-edge agricultural technology, while creating almost 100 jobs in Walton County and providing consumers across Georgia with sustainable, Georgia Grown produce year-round,” said Tyler Harper, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture. “Gotham Greens and the Georgia Grown brand are rooted in the shared values of quality, integrity, and innovation, and we’re proud to welcome them to the great state of Georgia.”

Agriculture is Georgia’s oldest and leading industry, contributing $70 billion to the state’s economy. With increasing high impact weather events, it is essential for the region to embrace new, innovative farming methods and products.

In Georgia, one in nine people face hunger, including one in eight children. Gotham Greens will work with local non-profit partners to help address food insecurity and provide seedlings for community gardens and educational purposes. In 2022, the company donated more than 44,000 pounds of food to families in need and provided more than 27,000 seedling donations for community gardens and educational purposes.

For more information on Gotham Greens, its greenhouses and its products, please visit gothamgreens.com.

ABOUT GOTHAM GREENS
Gotham Greens is an indoor farming company and a fresh food brand on a mission to transform the way we approach our food system, putting people and the planet at the forefront. Gotham Greens produces and delivers long-lasting and delicious leafy greens, herbs, salad dressings, dips, and cooking sauces all year round to retail, restaurant, and foodservice customers. A Certified B Corporation™, Gotham Greens sustainably grows high-quality produce using up to 90% less water and 97% less land than conventional farming through its national network of climate-controlled, high-tech greenhouses across America, including locations in New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, California, Georgia and Texas. Since its launch in 2011, Gotham Greens has grown from a single urban rooftop greenhouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., to one of the largest hydroponic leafy green producers in North America. Gotham Greens products are available in more than 6,500 locations nationwide, including Whole Foods Market, The Kroger Co., Sprouts Farmers Market, Albertsons, Target, The Fresh Market, FreshDirect, AmazonFresh and more. For more information, visit gothamgreens.com.

Unfold, Goodleaf Partner To Develop Premium Quality Leafy Greens

Companies will collaborate in Unfold’s Innovation Partner Program to enhance GoodLeaf’s leafy greens production, particularly spinach, utilizing Unfold’s proprietary genetics and vertical growing expertise.

DAVIS, CA, Feb. 27, 2023 – Unfold, an industry-leading seed and digital solutions company advancing the vertical farming industry, and GoodLeaf Farms, Canada’s largest commercial vertical farm, today announced their partnership to commercialize premium lines of vertically-farmed spinach and other leafy greens through Unfold’s Innovation Partner Program. Chief Executive Officers of both companies will discuss the partnership tomorrow in a fireside chat at the 10th Annual Indoor Ag-Con in Las Vegas.

Micro Broccoli from GoodLeaf’s Vertical Farm, Guelph, Ontario

“We’re very excited to collaborate with GoodLeaf to unlock the potential for improved quality and yield for their indoor growing operations,” said Unfold CEO Sonia Lo. “As a former vertical farm operator, I understand first-hand the importance of seeds that are specifically developed for indoor growing. GoodLeaf is the largest vertical grower in Canada and has already demonstrated its ability to successfully grow leafy greens in large-scale, fully commercialized vertical farms. Now, through our partnership, we will accelerate their product evolution with seed developed and optimized for their specific environment.”

GoodLeaf is currently expanding across Canada, building new facilities in Montreal and Calgary to increase upon its current production out of Guelph, Ontario. With the completion of these two farms, GoodLeaf will  produce over four million pounds of leafy greens annually, which is especially important for Canada where spinach, lettuce and other leafy greens remain amongst the country’s top imports. Both farms will be fully operational in late second quarter/early third quarter of 2023.

“Now that we have a solid foundation in place for our operations, it’s the perfect time to partner with Unfold,” said GoodLeaf President and CEO Barry Murchie. “Having the right seeds to ensure our success is crucial as we grow our operations throughout Canada and help the country lessen its dependence on imported produce. Unfold will help us make that goal possible.”

Goodleaf Unfold
LED lighting nurturing GoodLeaf’s vertically farmed spinach

GoodLeaf and Unfold’s collaboration is part of Unfold’s Innovation Partner Program, which provides vertical farm leaders unique access to Unfold’s leading plant biology expertise, digital tools and germplasm. This access is a competitive advantage to vertical farmers who often lack proficiency in seed genetics and agronomics for indoor farming, and, as a result, are left to rely on suboptimal seeds that generate reduced quality and yields. Through industry collaborations such as this, Unfold is working to address these core challenges head on.

“All of our leafy greens are grown with passion, care and precision,” Murchie continued. “Our partnership with Unfold will help us accelerate the development of even more productive, premium-quality leafy greens. Our R&D team is excited to collaborate with their counterparts at Unfold to take our efforts a leap forward and develop new varieties with enhanced yield, taste, nutritional value and sustainability.”

In fact, both organizations have sustainability as a core value. Working together they aim to develop varieties of leafy greens, most notably spinach, that require less time and energy to produce while enhancing traits valued by consumers, like crunch, colour and taste. These new varieties will boost GoodLeaf’s produce output while lowering its production costs, allowing the Company to increase the accessibility of fresh vegetables closer to consumers’ homes  as they continue to expand across Canada.

Video Announcement

Check out this video to learn more about the Unfold / GoodLeaf IPP: https://youtu.be/oRmED2mxd1I

Indoor Ag-Con Presentation

Tomorrow, February 28, 2023, Unfold Chief Operator Officer David Nothmann will be moderating a fireside chat featuring a conversation between Unfold CEO Sonia Lo and GoodLeaf CEO Barry Murchie. The fireside chat, entitled “Bringing the Knowledge Inside, Transforming Vertical Farming through Seed Genetics,” will take place from 9:15 to 10:00 am PST in the Expo Theater. For more information on the conference, please visit https://indoor.ag/conference-program/.

About Unfold

Unfold is accelerating the “seed to table” capabilities of vertical farming with an integrated offering of superior seeds, digital services, and agronomic insight. Based in Davis, California, Unfold’s mission is to create a world where the freshest, most nutritious, and most delicious produce is available to every person on the planet. For additional information about Unfold or to hear about potential career opportunities, please visit our website at unfold.ag.

Unfold’s Innovation Partner Program provides vertical farm leaders with access to Unfold’s leading plant biology expertise, digital tools and germplasm. Learn more about the program at unfold.ag/partner-program.

About GoodLeaf Farms

With a passion for delicious, nutrient-rich greens, GoodLeaf was founded in Halifax in 2011. Using innovative technology and leveraging multi-level vertical farming, GoodLeaf has created a controlled and efficient indoor farm that can grow fresh produce anywhere in the world, 365 days of the year. The system combines innovations in LED lighting with leading edge hydroponic techniques to produce sustainable, safe, pesticide-free, nutrient-dense leafy greens. GoodLeaf has ongoing collaboration programs with multiple universities in Canada, USA and Europe as well as several other partners in the commercial sector. GoodLeaf is a wholly owned subsidiary of TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture.

Learn more at goodleaffarms.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Horticulture Technology Boosts Sustainably Grown Heritage Greens 

HydroFarmAs more consumers take an interest in the origin and sustainability of their food, they seek out agricultural companies dedicated to responsible and socially sustainable farming. 

Allwell GreensAllWell Greens is that company. Founded in New York by second-generation Taiwanese Americans, AllWell Greens specializes in growing heritage bok choy, Chinese broccoli, and other traditional Asian greens. The founders of AllWell Greens, spurred by their frustration with issues they experienced using traditional farming methods, spent two years researching, developing and testing farming methods in a 200 square foot indoor facility in downtown Manhattan.

It is in this urban setting that the AllWell Greens founders discovered that one of the main components of their sustainable farming success is the PHOTOBIO LED horticultural lighting system from Innovative Growers Equipment (IGE) Hydrofarm Commercial Division. PHOTOBIO is part of the IGE-Hydrofarm Commercial Division family of products, a company that specializes in commercial growing equipment such as grow lights, vertical grow racks, benches, air flow systems, and other products to support commercial grows from seed to harvest.

HydroFarmIGE-Hydrofarm Commercial Division offers a modular, high-efficiency LED lighting system designed for propagation and vegetative stages, especially for vertical grows. After four separate lighting trials, the AllWell Greens’ founders were thrilled with the results of the PHOTOBIO horticulture lights. Their greens were crisp, flavorful, and disease-free, and they were able to harvest two days faster than in any previous trial! 

Impressed and confident with their results using PHOTOBIO LED lights, AllGreens’ founders took the next step of investing in a 5,000 square foot growing facility in the heart of Queens, NY. This space will allow AllWell Greens to scale up their agricultural operations and bring their heritage greens to market.

This new AllWell Greens facility is equipped with over 1500 PHOTOBIO lights on vertical grow racks. The PHOTOBIO lighting system exposes the crops to the perfect amount of light needed to optimize photosynthesis, resulting in higher-quality greens.

The PHOTOBIO lights are a game-changer for AllWell Greens. “We always knew that light was an important factor in growing greens, but I don’t think we anticipated the impact it would have on grow time and ultimately profitability,” explains John Cari, one of the company’s founders. “The PHOTOBIO lighting is so precise that we reduced our grow time by two days, improved our yields and significantly reduced our energy costs.”

Chris Mayer for IGE – Hydrofarm Commercial Division expressed “We are proud to partner with AllWell Greens on this project. Their dedication to sustainability and responsibility is inspiring, and we are honored to be a part of their journey. We look forward to continuing our partnership and supporting them in their efforts to revolutionize the Asian produce industry.”

Visit the Hydrofarm booth at the upcoming February 27-28, 2023 edition of Indoor Ag-Con in booth 707 and more about IGE-Hydrofarm Commercial Division here.

Physical Performance of Substrates – Kekkilä-BVB

Indoor Ag-Con 2023 Exhibitor & Sponsor Kekkilä-BVB discusses how the performance of substrates is one of the factors that determine the success of your cultivation. To get the best out of your leafy greens, it’s crucial to create an optimal environment for the plant’s roots to develop. Many factors work together to determine if a root zone is suitable. For example, we should take physical characteristics like pore size into account. However, factors like microbial activity within the substrate and buffers for pH and nutrients also play a big role in the happiness of your crop’s roots.

Take a look at the first article about the physical performance of soilless substrates on the website of their expert product brand BVB Substrates. Be sure to keep an eye on their website and LinkedIn page for follow-up articles in this series.

Netled CEO Niko Kivioja: 5 Reasons Why Grocers Need Vertical Farming Partners

Walmart recently announced a big bang in the US grocery trade landscape: its investment in vertical farming start-up Plenty. With this, the retail giant is taking a step toward making high-quality, pesticide-free produce more accessible and affordable for the consumer.

What do they know that you don’t? Why should every grocer be scouting for vertical farming partners now and not later?

  1. The salad and fresh herb markets are growing

NetledSize does matter, and the size of the market for salad and leafy greens in the U.S. and Canada is approximately $15 billion and growing. And it will continue to grow with an estimated CAGR of 8.2% from 2021 to 2028.

Similar growth is expected in the spice and herb market where in North America alone, it is projected to grow at a CAGR 7.2% (2020 to 2025).

That is a lot of money available for leafy greens, herbs, and spices if you can guarantee your yield and deliveries.

But therein lies the problem.

  1. Food security

VeraThe COVID pandemic has shown us that the logistics involved in food transportation are extremely susceptible to disruption; perishable products in particular cannot be stored for long before the quality deteriorates to such an extent that they are no longer fit for sale.

The majority of the lettuces sold in North America are grown in California. So, if you buy a packaged lettuce in New York, it has probably already traveled 3000 miles. Any disruptions to this journey along the way only serve to weaken the quality of the product and its availability to the end customer.

In fact, over the past year, packaged leafy greens have been one of the top items missing from grocery shelves due to logistics and transportation challenges.

Vertical farming systems like Netled’s proprietary system Vera can ensure the availability of products due to their proximity to the store. A Vera system requires very little space and is significantly more efficient and reliable than traditional agricultural systems.

Vera systems produce:

  • 5 times more crops per comparable growing area
  • 15 times more per surface area compared to single-level high-efficiency year-round greenhouse growing.
  • 100 times more crops per surface area compared to the yield for a normal single season in open-field agriculture.

Vertical farming systems also remove the risks that other forms of agriculture are susceptible to such as unpredictable weather, disease, and pests.

 

  1. Food safety

The more stages there are in the food processing and distribution, the higher the chance of some form of contamination.

Fewer human contact points, precise control over irrigation, and the growing process result in less risk of contamination.

Every year in North America, 48 million foodborne illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3000 deaths are recorded. (CDC, 2013).

Bacteria and pathogen contamination in the production line almost always originates from the irrigation water used. Further risk of contamination comes from the washing of field-grown or greenhouse products after they are harvested.

Outdoor farming and most of the greenhouses perform triple-wash on the harvested plants in order to mitigate the contamination risk, as a post-harvest process.

Vera vertical farming systems are encapsulated in a precisely controlled environment where there is no contamination from external sources such as pests, fungi, or bacteria.

The Vera system uses 95% less fresh water for irrigation than open-field agriculture and the water it uses is captured from the plant respiration, purified, and fed back into the system ensuring no possibility of external contamination. The plants are not touched by humans during the growing process and therefore do not need to be washed after harvesting.

Harvesting and packaging can even be automated with robotics so that there is no physical contact with the plant at all.

  1. Labor costs

All this automation not only ensures the minimum possible amount of contamination, but it also reduces labor costs.

Vera vertical farming systems are less labor intensive in both the growing and harvesting processes. The extremely high level of automation in irrigation, plant spacing, nutrient delivery, and lighting requires less labor resources. Harvesting and packing can also be automated to a high level with the help of AI and robotics, and if the vertical farm is situated in close proximity to the store, logistic, and transportation costs are also reduced dramatically.

  1. Quality

Awareness and demand for healthy plant-based foods is growing. Salads are a good source of fiber, iron, calcium, potassium plus vitamins A, K, C, and E.

There are many factors that can affect the quality of the end product, not only in the processing stages of production, but also in the growing stage. Open-field growing is particularly susceptible to risk factors: extreme weather events such as torrential rain and drought, nutrient depletion and salination of the soil and the chemical fertilizers used to attempt to redress the balance, water infiltration rates, pesticides, herbicides, and chemical spraying to name a few.

Vertical farming systems operate in a precisely controlled environment where every last detail is planned, monitored, and controlled from seed to retail. There are no rainy days, no hot days, no pests or chemicals – everything is always just right

The Vera system is programmed according to the particular plant and the variables are adjusted so that it can grow to its own genetic maximum. This results in the highest possible quality with guaranteed results no matter what time of year or whatever the weather.

In case you’d like to learn more about your potential future vertical farming partner, come and meet Netled CEO Niko Kivioja and the rest of the team at Indoor AgCon booth 1023!

Niko Kivioja will also join a panel conversation on Direct Controlled Environment Agriculture Farming in Grocery Stores, Hotels & Restaurants on Monday, Feb 28th at 4:00 pm.

 

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT NETLED AND ITS VERA TECHNOLOGY:

W: NETLED.FI

NETLED VIDEO RESOURCES:

Introduction to Vera vertical farm

Netled featured on Advancements TV Series aired on CNBC

Netled CEO Niko Kivioja interview Vertical Farming Podcast

Netled CEO Niko Kivioja interview Crop Talk Podcast  

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