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US (OH): Hydroponic lettuce grower starts home delivery

Great Lakes Growers, an 80,000 square foot, state of the art hydroponic greenhouse facility that grows leafy greens and herbs in Burton, Ohio, has launched a brand new, direct-to-door home delivery service called “Great Lakes Growers Express” to Ohio residents, with plans to expand to neighboring states by this summer.

John Bonner, Owner and CEO of Great Lakes Growers, had a lot to say about this new service. “We’ve been thinking about this for a long time and actually began the process of testing and implementing a salad home delivery service last summer. The tests went extremely well in terms of how the produce held up during delivery, so then it just came down to developing an easy-to-use website and streamlining our process for the incoming orders.”

Although there appears to be a major shift in the current business model of supplying produce to regional grocery chains, Bonner said it is more about filling a growing need rather than altering business models.
“We have great retail partners in the region and many consumers have easy access to our products because of those relationships. But, some folks don’t live near a quality grocery store or don’t have the time to get to one of our retail partners. Furthermore, produce like lettuce and herbs are not represented well in the meal kit home delivery market because of how they are procured and how long they spend in transit before they ever reach the consumer. We grow everything hydroponically right here in our own greenhouse and ship our produce to our customers the same day their order is harvested. We always want to maximize freshness, so making sure the order arrives at your door within 24-hours of harvesting is something very important to us. We are also only shipping our ‘living lettuce’, which means each head of lettuce is shipped with the roots still attached so the plant will live much longer. We already have industry leading shelf-life with our grocery store products, so imagine how fresh and long-lasting it will be when the lettuce arrives at your door one day after it was harvested! The marketplace is actively searching for this type of thing, and we’re in a great position to fill this need here in the Midwest.”  

When asked about the timing of this new venture, Bonner was very blunt about the state of the industry. “There were three (3) lettuce recalls in 2018 alone due to E. coli, with the most recent recall just before Thanksgiving really frustrating a lot of people! Frankly, consumers shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not the food they buy is safe. Unfortunately, there are so many ways for lettuce to be contaminated through traditional field farming and distribution, the next recall is just a matter of time. Because we grow everything hydroponically, we are able to control every step in the growing and harvesting process. Now we can control the distribution of our products to a much greater extent, eliminating virtually all sources for potential contamination. Consumers will unequivocally know where their produce came from when they order through Great Lakes Growers Express. Peace of mind is important to many of us consumers and we intend to deliver just that.”

In October, Great Lakes Growers began construction on an 80,000 square foot expansion greenhouse, which will effectively double their growing capacity to 160,000 square feet when completed in the summer of 2019. This expansion will help the company keep up with the growing demand for their products. “We have seen consistent growth in terms of our sales these last few years,” commented Bonner, “and this expansion, although always part of our long term strategy, will help support this new home-delivery service in a big way.”

When asked about his expectations and likelihood of success with this new service offering, Bonner commented “We will walk before we run, but given the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve had so far, the pressure from customers for us to continue developing this program and expanding our delivery area is mounting.” Bonner continued, “Without question, I have lofty goals for the service and I’m confident it will grow quickly, but our company was built on the ideal of consistently delivering quality at a price that is affordable to our customers. We will grow the service as fast as demand dictates while maintaining our ideals.”

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