In Burlington, North Carolina, a nondescript building belies the busy hive of a salad greens farm inside. Your Local Greens, the new venture of successful serial entrepreneurs and mental health philanthropists Doug Calaway and John Battle, is presently expanding in response to market demand. "Our customers just can’t get enough of the fresh and nutritious lettuces and microgreens."
Food markets and restaurants
Prior to the arrival of Your Local Greens, regional food markets and restaurants were dependent upon faraway farms to put salads on the menu for much of the year. "Unfortunately, long farm-to-table distances can increase prices and reduce flavor and nutrition. They also exact an untenable carbon footprint", they explain.
Seeking to change that, Calaway and Battle assembled a team of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) experts and investors to bring a sustainable vertical farm to North Carolina. It took over ten months to transform the former factory site into the productive farm it is today.
Abbey Noah and Darren Gilbert of Your Local Greens
Combination of CEA techniques
To help his growers realize their vision of efficiently growing high-quality, pesticide-free greens in a cleanroom, Your Local Greens brought in the Bluelab team along with other leading hort tech providers. Your Local Greens’ Director of Horticulture and Food Safety Abbey Noah (M.S., Horticulture, NC State, ‘17) said, “Our farm is an example of industry pioneering a novel combination of CEA techniques. We want to see the academic research community keep up.”
The farm’s patent-pending design spans four 20-foot (6 m) towers to make the most of the 17,000 square feet (approximately 5,200 m2) of growing space. Each tower supports trays of floating lettuces, illuminated with energy-efficient LED lights from Signify and fed by miles of pipes dispensing a proprietary nutrient solution. Bluelab Guardian monitors continuously measure pH and EC levels while Bluelab Pro Controllers manage pumps to dose nutrients in specified ratios, ensuring peak crop health without waste.
Proper pH, EC, moisture and temperature management
Bluelab representative Darren Gilbert noted, “Growers know the importance of proper pH, EC, moisture and temperature management. But because old-school measurement methods are tedious, best practices sometimes get skipped when production deadlines loom. We understand that growers need simplicity and accuracy, so that’s what we deliver.” The Bluelab product line enables quick readings, historical reporting and dosing automation to increase productivity and drive continuous performance improvement.
Doubling production capacity
Prompted by a growing wait list of prospective customers, Your Local Greens is expanding into the adjacent warehouse space. More than doubling the current production capacity, the expansion will include a fourth level of growing space.
Among Your Local Greens' many good neighbor initiatives is providing living wage employment and rewarding internship opportunities to individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD).
“A thriving business can support community health in unlimited ways,” said Calaway. “The expertise and quality we receive from Bluelab allows us to focus on what matters most.”
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Your Local Greens