Quantcast
Business

Two Indoor Farm Startups Stand Up to Alaska's Short Growing Season

How do you turn Alaska's icy tundras into lush, year-round farms? Two forward-thinking startups just might have found the solution: growing indoors.

Alaska Natural Organics and Vertical Harvest Hydroponics are two separate Anchorage-based indoor farm startups standing up to Alaska's short growing seasons by using hydroponics. With this soil- and pesticide-free farming technique, plants are grown in nutrient-rich water under blue and red LED lights that mimic sunlight.

Vertical Harvest Hydroponics repurposes old shipping containers to grow food year-round and provide fresh greens to Alaskans.
Photo credit: Vertical Harvest Hydroponics

Alaska Natural Organics—the state's first commercial vertical farm—is growing fresh greens in tall stacks inside an old dairy warehouse in Anchorage. Meanwhile, Vertical Harvest Hydroponics designs and builds customizable "Containerized Growing Systems," which are self-contained hydroponic farms inside a transportable, 40-foot shipping container.

While their farming approaches are very different, the two companies have similar ambitions. Each fills Alaska's fresh food gap by cutting the distance that food has to travel to Anchorage's plates, all while providing healthy, nutritious food options to residents.

Due to weather constraints on the growing season, Alaska imports approximately 95 percent of its food. Its produce comes from farms in California or Mexico—fruits and vegetables are picked before ripening so it doesn't spoil during its many weeks of transport, The New York Times reported.

Consequently, fresh produce is usually much pricier for Alaskans. “I’ve seen $10 heads of lettuce in stores, so I think the economics of this project will work,” Danny Consenstein, head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farm service agency in Alaska, told Alaska Dispatch News.

The Vertical Harvest units, which cost around $100,000 each, come with heating systems, shelves and electricity to support LED growing lights, co-founder Linda Janes told Alaska Dispatch News.

In all, the units are capable of producing 1,800 plants at a time in mineral-rich water without soil, Janes said. So far, the company has sold two units in Anchorage.

Alaska Natural Organics has also marked its first deliveries, with roughly 100 basil plants delivered to a handful of Alaskan grocery stores in the first week of December 2015, the Associated Press reported.

According to KTVA Alaska, when operations at Alaska Natural Organics are finally running at full capacity, the 5,000-square-foot organic farm will be able to house 20,000 plants.

Alaska Natural Organics founder and owner Jason Smith told KTVA Alaska that he plans to expand his company into rural areas across the state where fresh vegetables are even harder to come by.

“If I could say, 10 years from now, I played a role in helping to stabilize the food system in Alaska, that’s something I’d be very proud of,” Smith said.

Local grocers, restaurants and food companies have already expressed excitement about the prospects of Smith's year-round greens, according to the Associated Press.

Susie Winford of Alaska Coastal Catering catered two events in November 2015 using small heads of organic lettuce from Smith. They were harvested only an hour before they were delivered and had no dirt to clean off since they were hydroponically grown.

“[The] only complaint we had from a client was that it was too pretty to eat,” Winford said.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

Greenhouses: The Solution for Year-Round Local Food?

Meet This Third-Generation Farmer Who Converted His 1,400 Acres to Growing Organic Food

World’s First Off-Grid EcoCapsule Runs Entirely on Renewable Energy

Solar-Powered Water Wheel Removes 350 Tons of Trash From Baltimore Harbor

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
The two young Iowa vandals knocked over 50 hives and exposed the bees to deadly winter temperatures. Colby Stopa / Flickr

Two Boys Charged With Killing Half a Million Honeybees in Iowa

Two boys were charged with killing more than a half million bees at a honey business in Iowa last month.

"All of the beehives on the honey farm were destroyed and approximately 500,000 bees perished in the frigid temperatures," Sioux City police said in a release.

Keep reading... Show less

Are Microwaves Really as Bad for the Environment as Cars?

According to many headlines blared around the Internet this week, "microwaves are as damaging to the environment as cars." But this misleading information, based on a new study from the University of Manchester, hopefully doesn't make you feel guilty about zapping your next Hot Pocket.

The research, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, found that microwave ovens across the European Union generate as much carbon dioxide as nearly 7 million cars and consume an estimated 9.4 terawatts per hour of electricity per year. Okay, that sounds like a lot. But also consider that there are about 130 million microwaves in Europe and some 291 million vehicles on its roads.

Keep reading... Show less

Monsanto's Roundup Destroys Healthy Microbes in Humans and in Soils

By Julie Wilson

We're only beginning to learn the importance of healthy gut bacteria to our overall health—and the relationship between healthy soil and the human microbiome.

We know that the human microbiome, often referred to as our "second brain," plays a key role in our health, from helping us digest the food we eat, to boosting our brain function and regulating our immune systems.

Keep reading... Show less
Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke refused to meet with National Park System Advisory Board members last year, prompting most of them to quit. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

From National Parks to the EPA, Trump Administration Stiff-Arms Science Advisers

By Elliott Negin

The Trump administration's testy relationship with science reminds me of that old saying: Advice is least heeded when most needed.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
Shutterstock

8 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals

By Caroline Cox

What keeps you up at night? Sick kids, restless pets, the latest tragedy on the evening news, politics, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, money troubles, job stress, and family health and wellbeing? There is no shortage of concerns that make us all toss and turn.

But what keeps the chemical industry up at night? A couple of decades ago a senior Shell executive was asked this very question. The answer? Endocrine disruption.

Keep reading... Show less
Dave Atkinson / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Why We'll March Again

This Sunday marks the first anniversary of the Women's March that happened on the day after Donald Trump's inauguration—the largest protest march in our nation's history. The Sierra Club was there that day, and we'll be there this year, too—at a significant moment for women's rights and justice.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Nils Axel-Morner gives an interview on the fringe of a meeting in Rome in October 2017. YouTube

Climate Denial Group Linked to Trump Admin Is Funding 'Research' on Sea Levels in Questionable Journals

By Graham Readfearn

A climate science denial group with links to President Trump's administration has been funding work to sow doubt that low-lying islands in the Pacific are at risk from rising sea levels.

The two researchers being funded—one of which is a well-known climate science denier—have targeted little known "open access" journals with dubious quality controls to get their work published, DeSmog has found.

Keep reading... Show less

It's Official: 2017 Was the Hottest Year Without an El Niño

The United Nations announced Thursday that 2017 was the hottest year on record without an El Niño event kicking up global annual temperatures.

Last year's average surface temperatures—driven by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions—was 1.1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial times, putting the world on course to breach the internationally agreed "1.5°C" temperature barrier to avoid dangerous climate change set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!