US (CO): Hydroponic lettuce facility Spring Born closes in western Garfield County

A nearly 4-acre hydroponic agriculture facility near Silt recently visited by Gov. Jared Polis now sits dark, stymied by what the owner said was an inability to distribute in larger regional market chains. The lights turned off on Dec. 27 at the once vibrant facility with the potential of providing economic prosperity and employment to the region, along with a new approach to Colorado agriculture that was heavily supported by politicians both in the region and statewide, including Polis. 

“We saw the future of agriculture today,” Polis said in August while visiting the facility, “the future of food production, and it’s a more sustainable future, which it has to be when we’re having these tough discussions about the Colorado River Compact and the changing nature of water in the west.” Over the summer, Polis signed House Bill 22-1301, which utilizes indoor hydroponic farming for a controlled environment growing year-round in Colorado and uses less water than traditional agriculture methods. 

“There are three or four large-scale facilities in Colorado; this is the largest. And we’re going to be seeing more,” Polis said in August 2022. So, what happened? The facility opened in June 2021 and started supplying lettuce in August of that same year. The initial funds to build the property were a $30 million expense financed by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy.

After doubling sales in December 2022 and getting on board with Sysco for distribution, Spring Born’s main investor pulled out, forcing the facility to close at the end of the year. “This facility was designed to feed the state, not just local businesses,” Spring Born CEO Charles Barr said. “So, the size just didn’t match, and I can’t get it to the state unless I have distribution partners or I have retail partners.” Whole Foods and local grocery markets also carried Spring Born’s products on the shelves, while the other larger scale companies would not seem to budge. 


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