Be on the lookout for pesticide- and herbicide-free leafy lettuces grown in Indiana to hit select store shelves beginning the week of March 8.
Pure Green Farms, which is an indoor hydroponic farm located in South Bend, will grow, pack and ship its greens year-round. The company also uses hands-free automation for harvesting and packing, and climate-controlled space for its growing needs.
“We grow inside of a greenhouse, and inside the greenhouse we can control the environment,” explained Joe McGuire, who is the CEO of Pure Green Farms. “We control the temperature, CO2, humidity, moisture and nutrients. We don’t use pesticides or herbicides. No hands ever touch the product. It’s very clean.”
Shipments will initially go to cities such as Indianapolis, Kokomo, South Bend and others in northern Indiana, but the long-term goal is to expand beyond that.
“Our plan is to have a 300-mile distribution. We want to service the whole state of Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and parts of Ohio,” McGuire said, adding that in eight to 10 weeks, expansion within the state should happen.
With this system, Pure Green Farms brings the supply chain to the people.
“We can create this right in the middle of America … and the beautiful thing of it all is the product is a lot fresher.”
Pure Green Farms also has a focus on keeping its carbon footprint small, with its process using less water, less land and less food miles.
“We have boilers that heat water for radiant heat, we’re capturing some CO2 now and we’re chasing technology on that,” McGuire said.
In the past, hydroponics has been used to grow tomatoes and bell peppers, and now it’s taking off with lettuce, McGuire said. It also allows for growing to not be subject to a specific location, which cuts out long-distance trucking.
“It’s closer to the seed, germination and plate of the consumer,” he added. “For Indiana and Hoosiers, it means fresher product, homegrown product and supply chains that were far away are now close by.”
Pure Green Farms expects to grow 2 million pounds of leafy greens annually.
Look for these leafy greens to cost around $3.49 for a 4-ounce container or $4.99 to $5.99 for a 9.5-ounce container. Also look for initial shipments to Kroger stores in northern Indiana.
McGuire has 32 years in the fresh produce industry and spent this time in Salinas, California, which is often known as the salad bowl of the world.
“I was there when it became ready-to-eat salad,” he said. “I worked for Dole and Fresh Express in the ’90s. Ready-to-eat salad is now a $5 billion industry. This is the new wave of the future. It’s a major game changer.”