PORTAGE | This may seem like the winter that will never end, but inside a grow room at Green Sense Farms it is forever summer.
With 70 degree temperatures and 70 percent humidity, basil, chives, cilantro, lettuce, parsley and dill are thriving.
Stacked on shelves that reach the ceiling of the nearly 100-cubic-foot grow room, the leafy vegetables and herbs are getting just the right amount of light via LED grow bulbs. They receive water and nutrients fed by technology.
A second 100-cubic-foot grow room is getting readied to grow just lettuce.
Soil isn’t necessary here. Seeds are planted in coconut husk pucks, a renewable source excellent for seed germination because of its moisture retention abilities. Even the air that circulates in the room is controlled for the precise temperature, humidity and dust control.
“We are just doing the old thing, only better. We are bringing food closer to the people,” said Robert Colangelo, manager and co-founder of Green Sense Farms. “Our goal is to grow the best leafy greens and herbs in the world.”
The farm can produce produce year around, renewing crops every 20 to 30 days.
The farm is under the watchful eye of Lane Patterson, the “plant” manager, who most recently spent nine years at the South Pole growing vegetables at a similar farm.
The Portage farm has been some four years in the works, said Colangelo, an Illinois native who hosts his own radio show and authored books on the environment. He found more and more people were talking about food.
The idea for the indoors urban garden went through many iterations, working with Phillips as its technology partner on lighting and conducting research with Purdue University.
“It was being persistent and not quitting. It was a big challenge to find the right building, centrally located,” Colangelo said.
They settled on 30,000 square feet within a building at AmeriPlex at the Port business park. Colangelo said a keys to the business are making it available to mass populations of urban areas and making it cost effective.
Colangelo said it took about 18 months to find the right building.
By locating in Portage, Green Sense Farms will be able to market locally grown vegetables and herbs to five states: Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. It can serve about 40 million people in a 200-mile radius.
Most of its customers are restaurants, grocers and produce sellers, including Whole Foods. It also will be selling to the general public when it officially opens April 1. The public will be able to purchase excess product and will be advised of its availability through social media and its website: greensensefarms.com.