Tri-Cities greenhouse will probably be a salad hub for your complete PNW
Local Bounti wants to expand its fresh, locally grown salads and lettuces to stores all across the Pacific Northwest and its plan centers on a new Tri-Cities greenhouse.
Locally their products can be found at Yoke’s Fresh Markets, and at some other stores under the Pete’s label. Right now these salads are grown either in Montana or California.
The company is set to change that though. Soon customers will be able to walk into grocery stores in the region and find salads that just left the Tri-Cities facility.
Work is underway on its 217,000-square-foot greenhouse and packaging facility in Pasco on a parcel of land just south of A Street between the intersections Elm Street and Oregon Avenue.
The company plans to grow a variety of lettuces and package the salads and lettuce on site for distribution to grocery stores within 400 miles, which will allow them to ship to locations all across Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
The goal is to get their products to stores the same day they’re packaged.
Local Bounti President Brian Cook told the Herald they want to be a brand customers know and can trust to be fresh no matter what city or grocery store they’re in.
“Nationally known, locally grown,” Cook said. “The idea is to have a brand out there that consumers can trust no matter where they’re at in the United States, but all of the produce is grown closer to consumption.”
Their non-GMO, pesticide-free growing operations requires 90% less land and 90% less water than traditional farming, and are able to grow all yearlong using hydroponic technology, according to the company.
The salad also remains fresh for three to five times longer, they say.
Cook said they hope to have the facility finished by the end of the year or spring 2024. They expect to start hiring this summer, beginning with key positions.
“We’re looking for everything from general managers to production line workers,” Cook said.
The first phase will need 35 to 50 workers. They plan to update progress regularly on their social media pages.
The plans also include a future second greenhouse, coming in at 87,000 square feet. That would give Local Bounti a total of more than 305,000 square feet of growing space. The land was once used as a cattle stockyard, according to an environmental study of the property.
The company first began the planning and groundwork at the greenhouse in 2021, but it was put on hold while it finished the purchase of Pete’s.
The acquisition of Pete’s greenhouses and distribution network helps position the grower to distribute nationwide to more than 10,000 grocers in 35 states.
Pete’s recently embarked on a new project that saw a greenhouse in Georgia used solely for pre-packaged salads and was looking for a partner to grow the distribution network, according to a news release from investment banking firm Lincoln International.
How it’s grown
The 5.5-acre Pasco greenhouse and packaging facility will be a similar design, but is about twice the size of the initial build-out of that Georgia site, which will expand to 6 acres.
In all, the Pasco property is 28 acres, with plans to cover about 7 acres with the two greenhouses. The Georgia site is 24 acres, according to the company.
The Pasco site was selected for its ability to expand to meet market growth and needs, Cook said.
Initial cost estimates included with permits filed put the total cost of the facility at about $24 million, but the company said that number has changed since the initial filing, and is no longer accurate. They declined to offer an updated figure. The company said that cost estimates also include millions in equipment costs for the facility.
The company uses a “Stack and Flow” growing system, which is a hybrid of hydroponic techniques and vertical farming that looks like a series of shelves rather than a single table for growing.
The shelving type setup, which transitions to single level tables, allows them to use gutters and water redirection to minimize water waste. The plants also are on rolling benches that can be shifted once they begin to get larger and need more room.
Cook said the growing techniques create a faster, more efficient growing environment.
“Our company is known for our stack and flow technology, so basically what we did was marry the best of two controlled environment agriculture types, vertical growing and greenhouse growing,” Cook said.
“When plants are really small they don’t need a lot of space, so growing them vertically works really well. As they branch out, they need more room, that’s when you shift to greenhouse to be finished,” he said.
Director of Sustainability Laura Hahn told the Herald that the process will begin on the south end of the greenhouse with the newest crop in the stacks, and the plants will shift — or flow — north at different stages in growth until they eventually reach the north end where they will be harvested and taken into the distribution area for packaging and shipment.
As the crops shift during growth, they’re replaced by new ones creating a continual growth cycle all year.
The greenhouse area will total 3 acres broken into different cultivation points that they can control for temperatures for different crops. Hahn said it will take about a month for crops to cycle across the greenhouse.
“We’re looking at growing our full suite of products there, the Local Bounti packaged salads and living lettuces,” Cook said. “We have a crispy green leaf, a red and green spring mix, a romaine crisp and butter lettuce.”
The Pasco greenhouse will be the Montana-based company’s first Pacific Northwest facility. They already have distribution hubs in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, though.
Cook said the goal will be for trucks to get products to stores the day they’re packaged and for drivers to make their deliveries and get back the same night.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with new information on size and costs.
This story was initially revealed February 12, 2023, 5:00 AM.