FARIBAULT, Minn. – Minnesota is known throughout all agricultural sectors as a major producer of corn, soybeans, beef, pork, dairy, turkeys, even potatoes and sugarbeets, and now year-round lettuce. With the grand opening of their grow room three, Living Greens of Faribault is set to become a major distributor of lettuce, kale, spinach and other leafy green vegetables, capable of year-round production.
“We are at 60,000-square-feet of grow space and we are producing a bag of lettuce for every person in the Minneapolis, St. Paul metroplex,” said Dana Anderson, CEO and founder of Living Greens, during a recent phone interview. “The flavor of our products is just exceptional.”
Living Greens is not a greenhouse. They use aeroponics to grow the plants on a vertical plane. The system uses zero pesticides and 95 percent less water than traditional lettuce production.
“We are 1/200 the land of conventional production,” said Anderson. “It is more than just going vertical, but it's going vertical indoors that allows us as take one acre of production and produce the equivalent of a 200-acre farm.”
Aeroponics is also not hydroponics. In hydroponics, the plant roots are submerged in water that flows through the system.
At Living Greens, the plants are grown in the air. The plants grown essentially on a wall, with grow lights on the leafy side of the plant and an automated misting system on the other, which delivers the nutrients and water directly to the plant roots.
“The nutrients are then absorbed very fast because plants need an oxygen molecule to uptake a nutrient molecule,” he said. “They do that most efficiently in the air.”
This is one of the fastest ways to grow plants. It is 45 percent faster than hydroponics and twice as fast as growing in the soil.
Anderson started working on the aeroponics system in his garage in 2011, figuring out how best to grow the plants in the air and deliver the nutrients and water via his own patented misting system. The misting system automatically traverses the wall of plant roots, delivering nutrients at the right time.
“I decided to launch the company March 2012,” he said. “What we are doing now is we are taking that application to the leafy green market space, commercializing it, and we're going to expand that to licensees and other plants around the world.”
On Feb. 22, Living Greens hosted a grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration. The celebration marked the start of production in their third grow room and a new processing and packaging room.
The event was attended by the Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture Thom Peterson, Commissioner of Commerce, Steve Kelly, Representative Jim Hagedorn and State Senator John Jasinski as well as many other agriculture and industry professionals.
It marked Living Greens expansion to becoming the largest indoor aeroponics facility in the world and moving into commercial production levels and sales.
“We are at many of the major retailers already, we have a great relationship with Robinson Fresh who has products at all their stores,” said Anderson.
Information about where to purchase Living Greens products can be found on their website, livinggreensfarms.com, as well as a complete product list.
One of the benefits of not growing their leafy greens in the ground is there is almost no risk of bacterial contamination of the products, so the products are extremely safe. They are also able to process the entire plant. They do not have to throw away the outside leaves which carry many important nutrients and vitamins.
“The consumer is actually going to get a more nutritious product,” he said. “We are onto the market very quickly, which allows the nutrients to be intact, because the nature of vitamins is to degrade in the leaves over time.”
Living Greens is providing fresh lettuce and leafy greens to the people in the Midwest at a fraction of the land and labor costs and far less transportation.
“We are on the store shelf at a competitive price, but we offer extreme product differences in terms of attributes for the consumer, nutrition, flavor and no pesticides,” said Anderson.