From a one-acre greenhouse just off I-95 in Lower Makefield, thousands of pounds of salad greens are grown year-around before being shipped to a number of grocery stores in our area.
BrightFarms growing facility is down a gravel road just off Stony Hill Road. Inside, seven different pools of water grow salad greens like romaine lettuce, arugula, spring mix and basil. The greens grow from special rafts packed with a small amount of soil and a special design to help the roots spread into the water below.
“Our aim at BrightFarms is to grow fresh, local and delicious produce, while conserving land, water and fuel,” said Dominick Mack, director of operations at the facility. “We are happy to now be able to offer a this option to the community so they can feel good about the food they’re consuming and supporting the local economy.”
Each week about 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of salad greens are harvested from the facility, packed a few feet away and put on trucks that drive the few miles to local grocery stores, including Acme, Giant, ShopRite and 15 area Walmarts, Mack explained, adding summertime is peak growing season due to the hours of prolonged natural sunlight.
“Everything is done under this roof – from growing to supply chain,” he said.
BrightFarms’ controlled greenhouse environment features a large glass roof and walls, vents to control the temperature, special grow lights and a system to recirculate water. In addition, the greenhouse collects rainwater to replace water lost through evaporation.
Mack said the greens grown in Lower Makefield are not genetically modified and are not sprayed with chemicals.
“You can feel safe knowing that everything is untouched,” he said.
Due to the proximity of stores that sell BrightFarms greens to the greenhouse, the product is some of the freshest sold in large grocery stores, Mack said.
In a statement, New York-based BrightFarms said the “growing process takes advantage of natural sunlight, uses 80 percent less water, 90 percent less land and 95 percent less shipping fuel than conventional produce.”
The facility employs about 15 people full-time and offers a living wage and benefits.
Mack, who lives in Morrisville, said he has worked previously in the farming industry and was impressed when he first learned of BrightFarms hydroponic greenhouses. The company operates larger greenhouses in Culpeper, Virginia and outside of Chicago.
The company has plans to open another 10 to 15 greenhouses within the next few years. The Lower Makefield facility was intended to prove the concept could work.
Area residents are invited to visit the greenhouse on Saturday, August 5 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Free tours will be offered, fresh produce will be given away and staff will be on hand to speak with visitors and to man an arts and crafts station for kids. To register for the open house, click here.