Great Lakes Growers, a Burton, OH-based producer of hydroponic leafy greens and herbs in an 80,000 square-foot greenhouse facility, has broken ground on an additional 80,000 square-foot expansion. Once completed, the expansion will effectively double its growing capacity to 160,000 square feet and bring its annual pesticide- and herbicide-free production capacity to 6,000,000 heads. The masterplan for the site will max out at 380,000 square feet and will be realized in Great Lakes Growers’ subsequent Phase III and Phase IV expansion plans.
Established in 2012, Great Lakes Growers has become known as a market leader in the adoption of cutting-edge production technologies. The company has been committed to optimizing its operational model and growing techniques, while vetting out emerging technologies.
This latest expansion will also include a retrofit of the existing facility with the latest in LED lighting, glazing, dehumidification, heating technologies, and environmental control software. Great Lakes Growers will take its semi-automated growing and crop handling design to the next level, while further carving out operational inefficiencies through investment in automation and space management. The company is also investing heavily in its harvesting operations, which will now include pre-harvest cooling and automated handling to extend its industry-leading shelf life. The end result will be higher cost per unit, seasonal production continuity, and consistent, year-round quality.
“Our mission at Great Lakes Growers is and always has been to provide the cleanest, freshest, healthiest leafy greens and herbs on the market at a price that is affordable to our end user,” says John Bonner, Owner and CEO of Great Lakes Growers. “A major catalyst has been our partnerships with global leaders in varietal generation, technology, and nutritional formulation, but we’ve also created a wealth of knowledge for our company on this six-year journey.
“All these things are assets we hold in high regard,” Bonner says. “I have always thought of our initial facility as a bit of a test lab, a place to learn and figure it out, so to speak. Through hands-on, real-world experience, we now have a playbook of techniques, varieties, and technologies that work well together, but also know what doesn’t work for us, and that knowledge is just as valuable.”
Part of the construction also includes a 20,000 square-foot cooler and packaging line that will enable Great Lakes Growers to harvest and pack products that are already pre-cooled. This will prolong shelf life even further, adding more value for consumers. Great Lakes is also investing significant capital in technology for water sanitation to eliminate the possibility of foodborne illness, which represents a huge risk in the marketplace.
“Even though we’re doubling our size, our commitment to attaining and maintaining a 100% Food Safety Rating has never been higher,” Bonner says. “We have a firm grasp on what it takes to be successful in this rapidly expanding indoor produce space. It starts with constant innovation and our company-wide commitment to always get better. However, the overarching goal to always deliver consistent, affordable quality to the end user is what will continue to drive our company.”
Construction began on Sept. 15, with an anticipated completion date in May 2019. The staged retrofit of the existing facility will be complete by August 2019.