Great Lakes Growers, an 80,000 square foot, state of the art hydroponic greenhouse facility that grows leafy greens and herbs in Burton, Ohio, have broken ground on an additional 80,000 square foot expansion. Once completed, the expansion will effectively double their growing capacity to 160,000 square feet and bring annual pesticide and herbicide free production capacity to 6,000,000 heads. The masterplan for this site will max out at 380,000 square feet and will be realized in Great Lakes Growers subsequent Phase III and Phase IV expansion plans.
This expansion will also include a retrofit of the existing facility with the latest in LED lighting, glazing, dehumidification, heating technologies and environmental control software. Great Lakes Growers will take its semi-automated growing and crop handling design to the next level while further carving out operational inefficiencies through investment in automation and space management. The company is also investing heavily in its harvesting operations which will now include pre-harvest cooling and automated handling in order to extend its industry leading shelf life.
John Bonner, Owner and CEO of Great Lakes Growers, had this to say when asked about the company’s growth initiative “Our mission at Great Lakes Growers is and always has been to provide the cleanest, freshest, healthiest leafy greens and herbs on the market at a price that is affordable to our end user. Everything we have done since the company was established, has been geared towards this end. A major catalyst has been our partnerships with global leaders in varietal generation, technology and nutritional formulation, but we’ve also created a wealth of knowledge for our company on this 6-year journey. All these things are assets we hold in high regard.”
Bonner continues, “I have always thought of our initial facility as a bit of test lab; a place to learn and 'figure it out', so to speak. Through hands on, real world experience, we now have a playbook of techniques, varieties and technologies that work well together, but also know what doesn’t work for us and that knowledge is just as valuable. We have been very pleased with our market share up to this point, but the time has come to bring our diverse product line of living and fresh cut lettuce and herbs to new customers in new markets."
Part of this construction also includes a 20,000 square foot cooler and packaging line which will enable Great Lakes Growers to harvest and pack products that are already pre-cooled. This will prolong their products' shelf life and add even more value for their customers. Great Lakes is also investing significant capital in technology for water sanitation to eliminate the possibility of food born illness which represents a huge risk in the marketplace.
Bonner continued, “Even though we’re doubling our size to 160,000 square feet, our commitment to attaining and maintaining a 100% Food Safety Rating has never been higher. We now have a firm grasp on what it takes to be successful in this rapidly expanding indoor produce space. It really starts with constant innovation and our companywide commitment to always get better. However, the overarching goal to always deliver consistent, affordable quality to the end user is what will continue to drive our company.”
Construction began on September 15th, 2018 with an anticipated completion date in May 2019. The staged retrofit of the existing facility will be complete by August 2019.