SELINSGROVE — Ground was broken Monday for a greenhouse that will grow food in water.
Abby Prior, BrightFarms vice president of marketing, said the hydroponic greenhouse will use ponds to grow produce year round. Climate control will be key.
“We control the temperature, the humidity and, to some extent, we can control the light,” Prior said. “We do use some artificial light and we use shades when we need shade.”
Four acres will be developed for growing space with a single acre used for packing, cooling and shipping. Baby greens, salad greens such as spring mix, and herbs will be grown there.
Though it is an indoor operation, the plants may attract insects. They will be controlled without pesticides.
“We use something called integrated pest management,” Prior said. “If we have a bug, we bring in another bug that eats or kills that other bug to control the pests in the greenhouse.”
Eric Lallum, vice president of construction, said the area off Route 522, west of Selinsgrove, was ideal.
“We look for areas where we can orient the site so the greenhouse faces south,” Lallum said. “That gives us the maximum sun, and it is as flat as we can get it.”
The produce will be packed on site and ready to market at all Giant Food Stores. An officer with the Carlisle-based food store was glad to hear of the greenhouse’s establishment.
“We are very excited,” said John Ruane, Giant Food Stores chief merchandising officer. “We’ve been doing business with BrightFarms for many years. We have a great partnership. This just makes it even more local for us.”
The property was designated as a 10-year Keystone Opportunity Zone, which Lallum called an incentive. Low-interest loans offered by the state also are being pursued.
Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce officials, Rep. Fred Keller (R-85) and Russell Redding, Pennsylvania secretary of agriculture, were on hand for the groundbreaking and informational session that followed.
Prior credited Paul Lightfoot, CEO, as the entrepreneurial spirit behind the project. Other farms have been built in Virginia, Illinois and Ohio. The company’s first smaller farm was in Bucks County.
First planting is expected in December, with a first harvest in January. More than 50 jobs are expected be available.