MAPLEWOOD, Minn. - It seems that everyone has been surprised with how early plants started budding and blooming this year. The unseasonably warm March caused plants to get an early start on their growing season. But, what if, when it came to plants, weather didn't matter? What if you could grow lettuce in the winter? In Minnesota? Lino Lakes City Council Member Dave Roeser came up with a way to do just that, and is now harvesting 5000 heads of lettuce every week, at his indoor farm in Maplewood.
Garden Fresh Farms looks like a simple warehouse on the outside, but inside they are growing fresh, pesticide-free lettuce, herbs and sprouts by the thousands. And they are doing it in a way that no one else has done on such a large scale.
"We're doing it with aquaponics," says owner Dave Roeser.
In their operation, they just fish to fertilize the plants, and the plants to clean up water for the fish.
All of the herbs onsite grow in an orbiting cylinders. The plants make a full rotation around a light source every 45 minutes. This way the plants are all the same distance from the light source, and the movement makes it so they all continue to grow towards the light, instead of against gravity. When the plant reach the bottom of the rotation, the plant roots dip into a pool of water - the water that has been fertilized by the fish.
Garden Fresh Farms are marketing their products to restaurants in the metro that have a focus on local ingredients. But they are also marketing their product directly to the consumer for the first time this spring, through a CSA. And because of their year round growing season, Garden Fresh Farms is one of the more unique CSAs in the state.
This is the first season Garden Fresh Farms will be selling to the public. They say their technology could benefit people across the nation living in a colder climate, and could also benefit soldiers in the middle east, who spend months at a time in the desert. Potentially, in the future, Roeser and his company could help establish fresh, local produce-producing aquaponics operations across the world.