Why Grow More with Less?
For centuries, farmers have relied on our world’s natural resources to grow food. As resources like land, soil, and water become more important for us to preserve and protect, greenhouse farms have discovered better ways to grow more with less.
But it’s not just about finding better ways to grow the most food with the least environmental impact: it’s also important for farms to focus on reducing waste. Food, freight, and plastic waste all have an effect on our environment, but by using smarter strategies to limit this waste, we can do a world of good for our plants, our people, and our planet.
Did you know that our closed-loop water system helps us save millions of liters of water every growing season? Or that we track our food miles to make sure our produce arrives in your neighborhood in the greenest way possible? Let’s take a closer look at how growing with less means we all have more to gain!
Growing More Food with Less Resources
Farming has always relied on natural resources like land, soil, and water. While greenhouse farming is very similar, we’re committed to using our world’s natural resources in the most responsible ways possible!
Land is one of our world’s most precious resources. With just over 70% of the world’s surface covered in water, the land we do have to live, work, and grow on is limited. And with more arable land (which is used for growing field crops) being lost each year to conditions like soil erosion, pollution, or urban sprawl, it’s more important than ever for us to think differently about the land we farm on.
Greenhouse farms have discovered the best way to grow when land is limited—up! Vertical growing allows greenhouse farms to grow more food inside with less land: using strings and clips, our plants are supported so they can grow taller, and our team prunes them to keep the plants balanced.
Picture this: a 15-foot-tall Bell Pepper plant that grows over 40 Bell Peppers in one season. Now, imagine a 30-acre greenhouse farm full of these plants! It’s an incredible concept that greenhouse farms like ours have brought to life—when we started thinking differently about space, we knew vertical growing was the best way forward. With lots of space to grow vertically, our plants can produce more Tomatoes, Peppers, and Cucumbers inside a greenhouse than anywhere else!
Our land is valuable, so how we manage it matters. By growing vertically indoors, we can make the most of our acres and produce more food with less land.
For as long as people have grown food, soil has played an essential role in the process. Soil supports a plant’s root system, helps store important nutrients, and retains water. But fertile soil is becoming harder to find as more arable land is lost each year to soil erosion. With the same soil being used year over year to grow new crops, topsoil (the most nutrient-rich part of soil) is gradually lost.
With good soil in shorter supply, it has been essential to find new tools to grow our food differently. One of the many benefits of growing indoors is that we don’t actually need soil to grow our plants (unless we’re growing organically). So, how is it that greenhouse farms can grow more food with less soil? The answer: coconuts!
More specifically, we grow our plants in coconut fiber. Made from ground-up coconut husks, coconut fiber acts like soil by supporting the root systems of our plants and retaining the nutrient-rich water that they need to thrive. And as a renewable resource, coconut husks are an eco-friendly option that does good for both our plants and our planet.
Soilless growing is one of the many ways we’re growing things differently to make a difference!
One of our world’s most important natural resources – water – is something every farmer treats with extra care. That’s because it’s a resource that everyone needs, but not everyone has easy access to—with less than 2% of the world’s water supply being fresh water, water is a natural resource with definite limitations. With water being one of the most important parts of growing strong, healthy plants, finding new ways to conserve it is essential for the future of farming.
We use a closed loop water system to save water and get our plants the exact amount of water they need to grow tall and strong. This system collects, cleans, and clears any extra water for its next trip around the greenhouse, ensuring that every drop of nutrient-rich water goes to good use.
By using a closed loop system, our farms can save millions of liters of water every growing season. It’s true what they say: every drop counts!
Creating Less Waste with Smarter Strategies
Food, freight, and plastic waste are important issues that all farms need to keep top of mind. That’s why we’ve focused our efforts on creating smarter strategies for growing, shipping, and packaging food—because less waste is better for us all.
How we grow has a big impact on food waste at our farms. The smarter growing techniques we’ve been looking at not only help us maximize our resources, but also help to ensure our Tomatoes, Peppers, and Cucumbers are the plumpest, crunchiest, freshest vegetables available.
While we strive for perfection in everything we grow, some of our vegetables can still end up growing into squatty Peppers, curved Cucumbers, or misshapen Tomatoes. They may not look as beautiful, but these vegetables are still just as crisp and full of flavor as the rest!
When we set out to find better ways to treat these special vegetables, the Waste Me Nots program was born. This program was created to give our most unique-looking vegetables a second chance at shelf-life, and it is just one of the many ways our team has worked to curb food waste on our farms.
Wasting perfectly good food is one of our world’s biggest problems—and we all, including farms like ours, need to be part of the solution.
Transportation is an essential part of our supply chain that allows us to deliver fresh food to your neighborhood. But when the chain has kinks in it, the flow of goods isn’t as efficient and can create more opportunities for freight waste. So, the best way forward is for us to find smarter ways to ship!
Joining the SmartWay Transport Partnership is one of the biggest steps we’ve taken towards more eco-friendly transportation. We can track important information like the distance our shipments have traveled and the amount of fuel that was used to get them from Point A to Point B. With this partnership, we can better reach our green transportation goals while making decisions that keep our planet top of mind.
Where we grow and ship our vegetables also plays a role in making our supply chain less wasteful. Many of our most recent expansions, including in Ohio, Texas, and Mexico, have helped us trim down our food miles and shorten our product’s journey from the farm to your family.
Our commitment to reducing freight waste means we are always on the hunt for better tools to help us ship smarter.
Plastic waste is a global problem we’re all familiar with, and as a company that uses some plastic packaging, we have an important role to play in creating smarter packaging solutions. What we’ve realized is that smarter packaging leads to less waste in more ways than one!
One packaging alternative we’ve embraced to minimize waste is compostable packaging. Both our compostable (and recyclable) pulp-molded tray and our home compostable Cucumber wrap have allowed us to significantly reduce our use of materials like Styrofoam and plastic wrap in our packaging. These two packaging options protect both our products and the planet by fully breaking down in a compost environment without leaving behind any microplastics.
Finding plastic packaging options with better recyclability is another way we’re working to limit our plastic packaging waste. We’ve evaluated many of our plastic packages to find options that are either 100% recyclable or that use less plastic to improve recyclability. When plastic packaging is designed for better end-of-life recovery, less plastic is wasted, and more value is created.
It’s also important to recognize the role that smart packaging plays in limiting food waste. The best packaging strikes a balance between better end-of-life recovery and shelf-life longevity. If a package is fully recyclable, but doesn’t keep our products fresh, then food waste is created. And if a package is not eco-friendly, but keeps food fresh for a long time, packaging waste becomes the problem. Finding packaging options that do good for both our planet and our products is one of the best ways to limit our packaging waste.
Packaging is an essential part of our business, but so is sustainability. By using smarter packaging that serves our customers, our products, and our planet, we can continue to deliver fresh vegetables that are picked, packed, and shipped in the greenest ways possible.
More Sustainability Stories
Are you interested in finding out more about how we grow? Or reading up on some of our latest sustainability projects? Find more information below!