Living Greens Farm, located just south of the Twin Cities in Faribault, MN has developed its own patented aeroponic vertical growing system that, according to its own estimates, uses 200 times less land and 95 percent less water than traditional farming.
Launched in 2012, the company currently grows fresh lettuces, herbs and microgreens on vertical platforms indoors in its Faribault Industrial Park facility, without the use of herbicides or pesticides.
“We didn’t invent aeroponics,” said Dana Anderson, founder and president at Living Greens Farm. “But we invented how to commercialize it. We feel aeroponics is the fastest and most disease-resistant way to grow.”
Historically, farming has always been dependent upon the mercy of Mother Nature. But with this high-tech type of indoor farming, a computer controls all light, temperature, humidity and nutrients, thereby eliminating the uncertainties of day-to-day weather changes.
Plus, with aeroponics there is no growing medium like soil or water used; the plant roots are simply open to the air and regularly misted with a nutrient solution. Plants are initially grown outside of the machines before they are placed into the rows under the misting system technology, thus maximizing space and giving the plants the room they need to grow. The company has 10 patents for its traversing misting system, allowing it to grow more food in a much shorter amount of time.
“It’s proprietary technology that we invented here,” Anderson told The Product News. “We’ve invested five years of time and about $5 million into the research and development side of our business. Beyond the aeroponics piece, there was also the invention of the traversing misting system. There are many moving irrigation systems for field crops and it’s easy to understand when you see irrigation systems moving across a cornfield. But what we own is a moving irrigation system for roots and that allows for fewer nozzles and improved reliability. Instead of installing hundreds of thousands of nozzles in a full-scale facility, we just have to install hundreds.”
The company recently completed a major expansion project and added 30 more growing systems to its already existing 10 systems, so it will be producing substantially more produce. Normally, in 15 to 17 cycles per year, the farm harvests around 1,500 plants per cycle.
“We are building a rather large farm — one of the largest indoor farms in the world — in Faribault,” Anderson said. “It has four times more grow space, and larger expansion in terms of production because we are adding more grow lights, so we think it’s actually going to be more like a 10 times increase in total revenue and total sales and production. It’s 21,000-square-feet of grow space and that will produce about 1 million units, or heads of lettuce, per year. Aeroponics is very fast in germs of growing plants and it’s actually the fastest way to grow, according to NASA. That is a big deal for indoor farming because if you can grow four or five more cycles a year, that is of course more revenue per square foot — 40 percent more revenue per square foot of grow space — and that means the operation is more efficient.”
Living Greens Farm is definitely changing the way food is grown and it may eventually go worldwide, duplicating its Minnesota operation in other countries and producing additional types of crops. According to the company’s website, its goal is “to make the world a better place by growing healthy, sustainable, fresh produce.”
And Living Greens Farm Chief Executive Officer Dave Augustine said, “Things like this are totally necessary to feed the human population in the future.”
By Richard Lutes
Source: The Produce News