Local produce faces tougher challenges than drones - The Packer

Local produce faces tougher challenges than drones

08/08/2014 11:50:00 AM
Chuck Robinson

In a news release, president and CEO Ed Horton said he expects to expand to urban centers across the U.S. and Canada.

The technology allows the equivalent of 16 acres of produce to be grown on just a 1/8-acre footprint. Water use is cut 90% compared to traditional row farming, according to the company’s news release, and it cuts the carbon footprint by reduced transportation and creates local jobs.

The pictures they sent out were whiz-bang awesome, like someone from the Buck Rogers universe took a Star Wars stormtrooper uniform and planted lettuce inside it. Golly gee willikers.

Also, of course, New York-based BrightFarms has been building a network of greenhouses providing local produce to seven retail partners:

 

  • McCaffrey’s Market, Yardley, Pa.;
  • Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. Inc., Montvale, N.J.;
  • Homeland Stores, Oklahoma City;
  • Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu banner Cub Foods;
  • Schnuck Markets in St. Louis and the Twin Cities area;
  • Landover, Md.-based Giant Food LLC to Washington, D.C., stores; and
  • Roundy’s Mariano’s stores in the Chicago area.

 

I see artist renderings of their facilities and get the same sort of buzz I used to get looking at futuristic ideas in Popular Science magazines. Wowza.

I see the value. It makes sense. I have even proposed filling caves in the Kansas City area with vegetable production operations using LED lights.

Yet, if this is a revolution we are in the seminal stages, and the big players have a huge advantage. “The Salad Bowl of the World” and other centralized production areas have a lot of trump cards. They can afford research and development to improve their production technology, packaging, food safety — everything.

For instance, Guadalupe, Calif.-based Apio Inc.’s parent company Landtec recently made a larger investment in Delta, British Columbia, greenhouse grower Windset Farms.



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