Farming heads indoors to escape punishing weather

Hurricane Michael knocked down pecan trees and blew cotton to shreds in Peach County, Ga., early last October.

But two crops survived unscathed: tomatoes and cucumbers, coming into bloom in a 25-acre greenhouse just steps away from a pecan grove.

The site in central Georgia, just a 10-minute drive from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's hometown of Perry, is where Pure Flavor, an Ontario, Canada-based company, is working on the ultimate defense against climate change: climate-controlled greenhouses.

Pure Flavor recently opened the first phase of what will eventually be 75 acres of indoor-grown tomatoes and cucumbers, a harvest destined for grocery stores throughout the Southeast. When the facility is complete in the next few years — the second and third phases are scheduled for 2020 and 2022 — it will be the biggest of its kind in a region that covers 10 states.

The current 25-acre structure is large enough to hold almost 19 football fields.

"On this scale, in winter here in Georgia, this has never been done before," said Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer for Pure Flavor, a division of Pure Hothouse Foods Inc., as he weaved through rows of tomato plants packed with red-ripe fruit.

"We've completely removed seasonality," he added.

Read more at E&E News (Marc Heller)

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