Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Little Leaf Farms: Born Local, Raised Right (Part 2)
--The motto of Little Leaf Farms
As I mentioned yesterday, Little Leaf Farms is located in Shirley, a 14 acre-site within the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone. This zone is the former location of the 4,400-acre Fort Devens military base and is now administered and regulated by the Devens Enterprise Commission. Within this zone, you'll now find private residences, schools, open parkland, and numerous businesses. Paul Sellew, the founder of Little Leaf Farms, worked with MassDevelopment to acquire the 14-acre site, investing a significant amount of his own money into this endeavor, indicative of his confidence in this project.
Watching the entire process is amazing, seeing how smoothly it runs, from seeding to packaging. And it all begins with the pelleted non-GMO seeds, like those pictured above, which are obtained from Holland. The seeds are expensive and Little Leaf purchases a large amount of seeds on a regular basis as they harvest on a regular basis.
For the first three days of their life, the newly seeded trays, are kept beneath the rest of the trays, gaining the shade they need for germination. Once they have sprouted, then the trays will be automatically moved to the same level as the rest of the plants.
Paul stated that their projected annual yield should be in the low millions of pounds! Hypothetically, if their total yield were 2,000,000 pounds, that would equate to 1000 tons, or about 400 tons per acre. Now, let's compare that to the average yield of leafy greens on an acre of land in California, which is only 12 tons. Little Leaf is producing as much leafy greens on one acre as it would take for over 33 acres in California. That is incredible and is a massive savings in valuable resources. As I said yesterday, lettuce production occurs on about 323,000 acres, but if the Little Leaf process was used, you could decrease that amount down to only 9700 acres!
Little Leaf uses a hydroponic system known as "nutrient film technique," where, in short, water containing nutrients, feeds the plants. Little Leaf purchases all of the various ingredients separately including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients, and then creates their own nutrient blend, carefully selecting each ratio.
They do not use any chemical pesticides, opting instead for more biological control. Insects which could cause problems include aphids and white flies, and one of their means to controlling this threat is through parasitic wasps which live within the greenhouse. The greenhouse is also "over pressure enclosed" so that when you exit the greenhouse through a door into the cutting room, you will confront a large burst of air, which is partially to keep the greenhouse cooler in the summer and all helps to prevent insects from flying into the greenhouse.
The trays which once held the harvested plants are emptied and then disinfected by steam so that they can be reused. And the process begins anew.
Check out Part 1
Check out Part 3