Living Greens worker

Apr 9, 2021
Living Greens Farm enlarges product offerings, distribution

Talk about starting the year off right.

Minnesota’s Living Greens Farm (LGF) headed into 2021 with new products and increased distribution – good momentum for a young company growing in the market for indoor-grown greens.

And at the start of a year with many uncertainties, company leaders are staying positive about the future.

“We expect the industry to continue to experience double-digit growth fueled by an increasing consumer and retailer understanding of the significant benefits our products deliver,” said George Pastrana, president and CEO, LGF. “These include environmentally sustainable growing practices, great nutrition and taste, and freshness/quality.”

An indoor revolution

The commercial farm production facility is located in a former bakery facility in Faribault, a town about an hour’s drive south of Minneapolis. The facility is about 40,000 square feet with more than 25,000 square feet committed to growing, Pastrana said.

“We are able to grow over 175 different varieties of lettuces, leafy greens, microgreens and herbs. Our primary crops include romaine, butter, microgreens and basil,” he said.

growers Michelle Keller and Matt Johnson
Living Greens Farm head grower Michelle Keller, with senior grower Matt Johnson.

Head grower Michelle Keller brings 17 years of controlled environment agriculture experience, including owning and operating a hydroponic operation for nine years. She holds a bachelor of science in biology from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and has completed the coursework for a master’s degree in plant pathology.

With senior grower Matt Johnson, Keller and staff grow greens with an aquaponics system that feeds the roots with a mist of water and the leaves with a narrow spectra light from high-efficiency LEDs. Keller was integral in the development of the LGF growing platform, Pastrana said.

Entrepreneur Dana Anderson, who founded the company in 2011, believed indoor farming, and specifically, aeroponics, was the future of farming that solved serious issues that traditional growers faced. The farm has an international technology licensing subsidiary, AeroSun Indoor Grow Systems.

“We partner with investors and growers overseas to leverage our patented technology and proprietary know-how to design, build and commercially operate vertical plane aeroponic farms of any size,” Pastrana said.

Business niche

In the past decade, Living Greens Farm has found and refined its niche in the industry as a provider of bagged salads with a super-long shelf life.

Living Greens Farms salad kit
An example of the bagged salad kits that Living Greens Farms is selling to increased distribution.

“We are the only indoor farm that supplies ready-to-eat bagged salads and salad kits, with a 14-plus day shelf life,” Pastrana said. “We are known for growing hardy, great-tasting full heads of lettuce that can be chopped, washed and bagged with a freshness to achieve more than 14 days of shelf life. We go from harvest to delivery in less than 24 hours. This means consumers can enjoy our great tasting fresh salads for a longer period of time than they would with traditionally farmed bagged salads.”

This year, the company rolled out a significant new retail distribution of its products in the upper Midwest to independent, specialty and co-op retailers.

In February 2021, UNFI Produce Prescott, once known as Alberts Fresh Produce, began carrying LGF’s full line of products featuring ready-to-eat bagged salad products including Caesar Salad Kit, Southwest Salad Kit, Harvest Salad Kit, Chopped Romaine and Chopped Butter Lettuce.

UNFI Produce Prescott is a division of UNFI, which has eight warehouses nationwide and distributes food to thousands of stores. LGF’s products will be carried by their upper Midwest location, located just across the river from the Twin Cities in Prescott, Wisconsin, which serves hundreds of retailers throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska.

The locally- and regionally-grown greens market has grown in recent
years – with many new greenhouse operations marketing their produce as being of superior quality. The indoor, soilless growing processes and product value are becoming better understood and appreciated. Joe Donnelly, a former U.S. Senator from Indiana who once served on the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, joined LGF’s advisory board in January, providing feedback related to the company’s planned national rollout, which is scheduled to begin later this year.

“Living Greens Farm’s business model has a lot going for it,” Donnelly said in a news release from LGF. “It is a huge step forward for the environment, great for the retailer and provides incredibly fresh, premium quality products for the consumer. It helps bring us into the future of farming.”

— Stephen Kloosterman, associate editor

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