Green Automation Group has announced the latest project realization in the North American market — hydroponic lettuce producer TrueHarvest Farms in Belton, Texas, according to a press release. The 50,000-square-foot greenhouse is equipped with growing automation technology from Green Automation. Riding on the steadily increasing demand for locally grown produce, TrueHarvest Farms will grow fresh and pesticide-free head lettuce locally in the controlled environment of a greenhouse 365 days a year. The farm is strategically located in the “Texaplex,” which is formed between the cities Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. With a population of around 20 million people and having 80% of the state’s population growth since 2000 as well as generating up to 70% of the Texas economy, this area is the ideal location for new, innovative and sustainable production of leafy greens.
“The climate here in Texas makes year-round field growing of leafy greens impossible and the area has so far, as the rest of the USA, relied heavily on having lettuce trucked into the state from California and Arizona for a substantial part of the year,” said Marshall McDaniel, managing member at TrueHarvest Farms. “We will be distributing truly fresh, nutritious, safe and locally grown lettuce to stores within a 250 miles radius of our operations. The lettuce will be available to the customer in less than 24 hours of harvesting”.
Recent food safety scares in the lettuce industry have led to an increased interest in and call for safe and clean lettuce produced in a controlled environment. The greenhouse is a closed system, controlling what comes into the greenhouse, making it possible to not only keep the lettuce clean, but also to grow it without using any chemical pesticides. The irrigation water, air and growing medium are controlled, monitored and clean, keeping consumers safe and the environment protected, according to the release.
“There is an enormous demand for locally grown and safe lettuce today,” said Jason Maks, managing member and grower at TrueHarvest Farms. “Our facility is in the final stage of obtaining PrimusGFS certification and we are dedicated to meeting the highest safety standards in the food industry. TrueHarvest Farms will be a reliable source for locally grown and safe produce for the Texas markets. We are ramping up our production right now and expect to reach full capacity in January 2020. At the moment we are growing Butterhead, Crisp and Romaine varieties.”
TrueHarvest Farms is using the automated growing system optimized for head lettuce production. “When growing leafy greens in tough climates it is imperative to operate the greenhouse with the highest efficiency and to generate the highest yields per square foot, therefore TrueHarvest Farms decided to use the automated growing system from Green Automation,” said Patrik Borenius, CEO, Green Automation Americas. “Throughout the entire growing process maximal space efficiency is achieved through automatic movement and adjustment of gutters, giving the plants as much space as needed, but as little as possible.”
In addition to maximizing yield through space efficiency, labor efficiency is an essential key component in a profitable operation. The system has a highly automated and versatile medium filling and seeding line arrangement using stackable trays and supporting both net pots as well as Ellepots, according to the release. After seeding and germination, the plants are placed onto the automatic growing system, featuring adjustable and movable growing lines, where they will soak up the natural sunlight. As the plants grow, they are moved automatically through the greenhouse toward the harvesting station.
TrueHarvest Farms did multiple trips to reference operators in Europe, including to such remote locations as Joensuu, Finland, before making a decision. “It is a proven system and on par with our earth-conscious commitment. We are looking forward to growing and providing the Texas market with the highest-quality lettuce,” McDaniel said. “This is only the beginning, we have room to grow and our head house as well as the irrigation system are designed for future expansions.”