DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Cleaner, greener, produce– and more of it.
A Dallas-based company called Eden Green Technology is using just that to grow more fresh produce with less resources through ‘vertical farming.’
The concept looks to revolutionize agriculture as climate change impacts weather conditions.
“When you got out of your car here, it said 100 degrees. Produce do not grow in 100 degrees,” says the company’s co-chair Jaco Booyens with enthusiasm. “But where I’m standing right next to this plant right here, it’s 30 degrees cooler to the root zone and leaf zone, because of the technology.”
The system also allows staffers to create the ideal climate for whatever they’re looking to grow.
“This is bok choy,” points out Booyens. “It’s an Asian green. It normally doesn’t grow here.”
But, climate is no longer a concern. “We can literally mimic a berry out of the Amazon, or a leafy green out of Africa that has great nutrient value and we can grow it in Dallas, Texas.”
Or anywhere that a greenhouse can be built.
So called ‘micro-climates’ at the root and leaf zones allow the plants to grow to maturity in just 27 days: making the system, they say, the most efficient producer per square foot on the planet. The vertical farm will produce 10 to 15 harvests per year, while a traditional farmer Booyens says will be lucky to get two or three.
I walked along meticulous rows of romaine and arugula, a spicy mustard green and herbs like tarragon, basil, oregano and chocolate mint. And I must admit, I’ve never tasted such intense flavorings in greens.
“My brother and I invented this system,” added Jacques van Buuren, proudly. He says it was an 8-year journey that began with a chance encounter with a 5-year-old as the brothers hosted a play event at a South African orphanage.
“He had his little candy in his pocket…and I asked him: `why didn’t you eat your sweets?’ and he looked at me, he’s five years old… (van Buuren pauses at this point, tears fill his eyes and clearly the memory still feels fresh, even if it the incident isn’t) and he said, ‘this is meant for my three year old little sister: it’s not my day to eat, today’.” And with a resolve that changed his life and that he hopes will
change the world, Buuren added, “we can change that.”
So when the plants are harvested, through a program that the company calls its “First Fruits community-giving program,” the first plants, the very best will be donated to the North Texas Food Bank to make sure poor families also have fresh produce.
For now, Walmart has purchased the remainder of the harvest. You’ll find the fresh greens in stores in mid July under the brand name ‘Crisply,’ but the Eden Green Technology plans to keep growing– a couple dozen more greenhouses are planned.
“People don’t have to be hungry,” says Buuren, who is also the company’s COO. “There’s over 700 million people tonight that will not have food. We can change that.”