It was 8:15 Tuesday morning and the greenhouse was just waking up for the day. Spurred by an electrical panel that serves as its brain, its roof vents had popped open, letting in the cool, morning air.
Meanwhile, the human staff of Altius Farms was already busy doing its work. Moving among rows of aeroponic growing towers the pickers plucked leafy greens, herbs and edible flowers like Genovese basil and red Russian kale, washed them and packed them in coolers.
Within hours the harvest would be distributed to some of Altius’ three dozen odd regular and seasonal customers in the Denver area including top restaurants and grocers like Choice Market and Marczyk Fine Foods.
“If you grew this in California and transported it here, it wouldn’t taste nearly this strong,” Altius co-founder and CEO Sally Herbert said, holding up a particularly spicy variety of mustard leaf. “After 1,500 miles in and out of cold storage, the flavor degrades. The nutrient density degrades, too. As much as 80 percent.”
All of the work, mechanical and mammal, was taking place far from Colorado’s agriculture heartlands on the Eastern Plains and Western Slope. Altius is farming in the heart of Denver at 2500 Lawrence St. Its 7,000-square-foot greenhouse sits atop (and helps supply) chic sushi restaurant Uchi and is the visual centerpiece of sustainability-focused condo project S*Park.