Sustainability is simply defined as meeting the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability is the foundation of success for lēf Farms and one of the main reasons we opened our greenhouse doors in 2016. As one of the most advanced growing systems in the world, we are proud to demonstrate and promote our methods for how we define sustainable food production right here in New England.
Sustainable food production is a method of production using processes and systems that are non-polluting, conserve non-renewable energy and natural resources, are economically efficient, safe for workers, communities, and consumers, and do not compromise the needs of future generations.
One great example of our efforts to minimize our impact on our environment can be seen in how we manage CO2. With reduced heat and light levels in the winter months, we utilize 97% efficient natural gas burners to generate heat. We capture and utilize the CO2 from the burner’s exhaust systems and supply the CO2 in the growing zones where plants can convert this gas to plant mass and oxygen. Plants need CO2 as part of photosynthesis, thus making it extremely valuable during the winter months when the greenhouse is closed to consume heat. By adding CO2, we can reduce our lighting requirements up to 30%, which in turn reduces electricity demand. Grow times also speed up as a result, which means are greens are ready to eat 12-14 days after planting. This speed provides the farm with a major advantage. Our green grows faster than the insects that find them as tasty as you. Since insects do not have the time to establish a population, we never have to use harmful pesticides on our greens, keeping both the environment and the people in it safer and healthier.
Maintaining sustainable food production also involves being economically efficient. Our greens are locally grown right here in New Hampshire so that our product can be harvested today and found on a local retailer within 24 hours. Currently, 97% of all baby greens you see at restaurants and retailers start with a 3000-mile 7-day road trip from the West Coast. By the time these greens hit your dinner table, they are 8-12 days old and up to 33% of all this lettuce eventually finds its way to landfills.
Eliminating the 3000-mile road trip is one major step towards our sustainability goals. We can drastically reduce food waste, increases freshness and flavor while also eliminating thousands of gallons of fuel needed to refrigerate and transport West Coast greens. Take food waste as an example, landfills have a huge economic and environmental impact. As food breaks down in landfills methane is released, which is 26x more potent than CO2. The less food that finds a landfill and the more that can find your dinner plate means that not only are we nourishing our current community but making future communities cleaner.
Below are some incredible facts about our farm and our commitment to sustainable practices:
- 1-acre greenhouse at lēf = 66 acres outdoor production
- We produce 66 acres worth of greens using 1/10 of the water, 1/10 plant nutrition, and a fraction of the land.
- Peat moss: most hydroponic farms use rock wool, which is an inert growing material that heads to landfills. We use peat moss, which is an organic medium that we recycle and repurpose eliminating a crucial waste stream that has huge negative impacts on landfills across America.
- No Pesticides ever, no chlorine baths = no dangerous and harmful chemicals on our farm, near our employees, or on the product for the consumer. This also means there is no run-off to nearby lakes, streams, aquifers.
- Recycled irrigation water = no run-off, reduce consumptions of inputs resources
As you can tell we can talk all day about the positive impacts our farm is making. We are proud of our work at the farm and what it means for our communities. It is estimated that we will need to grow 60% more food to hit the 2050 population of 9 billion people. The question becomes how we produce more food with fewer resources. As we have demonstrated, hydroponics may be able to play a major role in filling this need.
Sustainability and sustainable food production is not just the right thing to do, it’s our duty as producers and consumers not to waste and harm the world around us so that those in the future can enjoy what we have today!
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