Tehachapi, California may be the Land of Four Seasons, but under glass in Cummings Valley, there is just one, and it is computer-controlled to be perfect for growing leafy greens. Around the clock, 365 days a year, 14 different lettuce varieties are grown without pesticides, herbicides, or other harsh chemicals - and packaged without human hands touching the product.
Revol Greens recently began harvesting lettuce at the massive greenhouse on the floor of Cummings Valley which previously housed SunSelect Produce. Another smaller greenhouse to the north is operated by Millennium Pacific Greenhouses and began growing tomatoes in 2018.
The greenhouse now operated by Revol Greens was a 32-acre facility opened in October 2014 and later more than doubled in size. SunSelect grew tomatoes and bell peppers there, but in January 2020 the British Columbia-based firm announced the sale of the 65-acre greenhouse facility to Equilibrium Capital, an investment company focused on sustainable real estate investments.
Erik McMullen grew up in Tehachapi. When he returned home after studying biological sciences in college, he was not sure what he wanted to do. He found an opportunity with SunSelect and now is a grower with Revol Greens.
The growing process begins as polystyrene trays (called boards) are packed with the growing medium - or substrate - that is essentially peat moss mixed with water. Different types of trays are used for the leafy greens and head lettuces grown by Revol. After the growing boards are prepared, they make their way on a conveyor belt through the seeding drum. McMullen said a machine precisely drops seed onto the substrate, and then the boards go through a water tunnel. The specially designed boards are then stacked and palletized and transported to the germination area.
The process for head lettuce is similar, although the substrate is packed into small cups on the boards with just one seed put in each cup by a machine. Depending upon the variety, the growing boards will spend two to five days in the germination area. Growers monitor the plants carefully, McMullen said.“ They’re looking for a light,” he said of the tiny seedlings. They need to be moved out of the germination area to the greenhouse at exactly the right time.
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