In addition to its expanded operations in Massachusetts, Little Leaf Farms recently purchased 180 acres of land in Pennsylvania to build another hydroponic greenhouse to produce lettuce using captured rainwater (treated naturally with UV light) and natural sunlight filtered through high-light transmission glass windows. A greenhouse located in North Carolina to serve the Southeastern US region is also in the works, according to the company.
“It’s been a long time coming, but we have been outselling our competitors in all the major supermarkets for years,” said Paul Sellew, founder and CEO of Little Leaf Farms.
“During the pandemic, we continued to see how vital locally-grown food is to keeping people healthy. Our customers rave about the freshness of our lettuce which is harvested and shipped within 24 hours. We consistently beat our competition in California and Arizona on quality and taste, and that demand warrants this major expansion.”
Grown locally, Little Leaf Farms’ greens reach retailers within 24 hours from harvest and thus maintain a longer shelf life, said the company.
“The East Coast is accustomed to lettuce that loses its freshness every mile it travels from the West Coast, and whether it’s the problem of COVID 19, soil erosion, wildfires, or drought, the West Coast is no longer a reliable source of fresh produce,” said Paul Sellew, founder and CEO of Little Leaf Farms.
Little Leaf Farms claims that its hydroponic growing method uses 90% less water than field-grown greens, and that its proprietary Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) mobile gutter system delivers a 20x yield increase per acre compared to traditional field agriculture and higher yields compared to other hydroponic systems.
Hydroponic growing methods also have several food safety benefits, according to the company.
“By growing under glass, there is no risk of contamination because no human hands ever touch the lettuce, and the greens are not exposed to animal waste like outdoor field-grown lettuce, eliminating the hazard of E. coli, a common problem every year in field-grown lettuces in California,” said Little Leaf Farms.
“By growing in what is called controlled environment agriculture, we have brought year-round produce back to the East Coast. It means we can all eat much fresher, tastier and crisper lettuce as a result,” added Sellew.