Living Greens Farm quadruples its vertical food growing operation in Rice County

From butter lettuce to arugula microgreens, Living Greens Farm specializes in growth. In August, the company will undergo some growth itself, quadrupling its size in its Faribault facility.

Currently, Living Greens Farm houses 10 growing systems in its Faribault Industrial Park facility. These systems grow food products vertically and indoors without the use of herbicides or pesticides. According to its own estimates, the company uses 200 times less land and 95 percent less water than traditional farming.

Next month, the company will add 30 systems to help grow more lettuce, microgreens and herbs in Faribault.

In 15 to 17 cycles per year, Living Greens Farms harvests about 1,500 plants per cycle. Lettuce, microgreens and herbs each have different grow times, but the company’s 10 patents for its traversing misting system help Living Greens grow food in a shorter time frame.

According to Dana Anderson, chairman and president of Living Greens Farm, the company uses aeroponics to grow the plants quickly.

“We feel aeroponics is the fastest and most disease-resistant way to grow,” he said.

Once the expansion is complete and production begins in September, Living Greens Farm will be one of the “largest indoor farms in the world,” Anderson said.

Getting to that point, however, was a tall task. Development of its traversing misting system took five years and $5 million to complete. While just one part of the equation, Living Greens Farm’s invention was pivotal to the company’s success.

“We didn’t invent aeroponics,” Anderson said. “But we invented how to commercialize it.”

The person tasked with doing the day to day growing is Michelle Keller, the head grower at Living Greens Farm and a four-year master grower.

Keller works with two other individuals that make up the current staff, which she said she expects to grow to six or seven employees once the 30 additional machines are added to the operation.

In the current operation, the plants are first grown outside of the machines before they are placed into the rows under the misting system technology.

“It maximizes the space,” she said. “But it still gives the plants the room they need to grow.”

Growing in Rice County

When the expansion is complete, the earliest stages of growth will occupy the current space, while plants will grow in the 30 new machines in the next room in the latter stages.

The Faribault business is built on a series of high-tech innovations and also contributes to Faribault’s community of growers and agriculture.

For Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Marketing Director Nort Johnson, Living Greens Farm fits into a growing market.

“Locally grown, homegrown, organic foods are growing in popularity,” he said. “Living Greens Farms is at the very front edge of that. They use no herbicides or pesticides and they do it all in house.”

Johnson also has a particular interest in biomes, or the natural growth within one’s habitat. In Living Greens Farm, Johnson sees the opportunity for people in Rice County to take advantage of their own biome.

“In the big picture of sustainability, the more you can produce and manage within your own biome, the less dependent that you can be in a world economy,” he said.

From the growing rows of Living Greens Farm, its products are distributed locally in Faribault and Northfield at the Smoqhouse, Hy-Vee, Just Foods Co-op, Carleton College and Tanzenwald Brewing.

While those businesses now benefit from Living Greens’ operations in Rice County, it almost didn’t happen here. According to Anderson, former Faribault Mayor John Jasinski and current Economic and Community Development Director Deanna Kuennen were instrumental in bringing Living Greens to Faribault, where they will now expand.

“They were really welcoming and supporting,” he said. “That was the difference for us. That’s why we chose Rice County over Dakota or Hennepin counties.”

Source: Faribault Daily News
http://www.southernminn.com/faribault_daily_news/news/article_1c227c28-f67c-5686-8c50-c83aa2e4112f.html