Little Leaf Farms Doubles Greenhouse-Growing Capacity
Little Leaf Farms, grower of the top-selling crunchy baby green lettuce in the United States, is doubling its greenhouse-growing capacity to 10 acres of lettuce fields under glass, which will produce more than 2 million packages of lettuce per month, and enable wider distribution of the company’s greens to stores throughout New England and into New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“It’s been a long time coming, but we have been outselling our competitors in all the major supermarkets for years,” noted Paul Sellew, founder and CEO of Devens, Massachusetts-based Little Leaf Farms, which has grown from 5 to 10 acres over the past five years. “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.”
Little Leaf Farms also recently purchased 180 acres of land in McAdoo, Pennsylvania, with plans to build another state-of-the-art greenhouse to distribute further down the East Coast of its sustainably grown lettuce, produced without chemical pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.
With the worldwide hydroponics market expected to hit $16 billion by 2025, according to MarketsandMarkets, the company additionally intends to build a greenhouse in North Carolina, funded by Bank of America.
“The way in which we grow acres of fresh lettuce under glass with natural sunlight and captured rainwater is the way of the future,” added Sellew. “The pandemic has shown us that we need strong local food systems to make our communities more resilient and improve the freshness and quality of produce. We are part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.”
Hydroponic production – growing without soil – uses up to 90% less water than field-grown greens to grow lettuce. Little Leaf Farms is growing lettuce in peat in the new greenhouse. Other facility features include special high-light transmission glass windows to capture rainwater and sunlight, solar panels to generate electricity, and a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) mobile gutter system that delivers approximately 20 times the yield increase per acre than traditional West Coast field agriculture, and higher yields compared with other hydroponic systems, according to 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,” observed Sellew. “So, Little Leaf Farms’ lettuce is a game-changer. 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.”