CONTINUED FROM PAGE 35
agricultural experience as a challenge, Sleiman
says his program makes up for any knowledge deficit. It includes a Wikipedia-style resource section
to help identify any plant health issues his employees might encounter. The computer system not
only maps out where each and every plant is at any
given time, it also details how each plant is cared
for; monitors and adjusts greenhouse conditions;
and tracks inventory, orders, sales and shipments.
Sleiman says he wants his employees to come up
with out-of-the-box solutions and not be limited by
traditional agricultural practices.
Many of the repetitive and undesirable jobs are
automated, while Go Green’s employees ensure
quality. Machines create the soil sushi, plant the
seeds and water the seedlings and growing plants.
Pesticides are never used. Humans move the product around the greenhouse and hand-harvest the
lettuce. Two machines box and label the product
A Go Green butter
lettuce plant with
the root system
attached to the “soil
sushi.” Typical hydroponic operations do
not grow in soil (see
(see video for demonstration). Due to these efficiencies, Go Green’s ; acres produce ;; times the annual
yield of equivalent field acreage.
“Our employees are able to earn more because
they are able to be more productive per capita by
using technology,” says Sleiman.
Go Green is currently developing a second
greenhouse, a ;;-acre facility that will be even
more high-tech: Seedlings will be planted and
grown on a conveyer belt that will take five weeks
to move from start to finish. The product will
emerge full-grown, ready to pack and ship.
Sleiman says, “Every decade there are statistics that say, if we keep going the way that we’re
going, there will be a food shortage. And every
decade we solve it and we do produce enough food.
The way that happens is through technology. It is
technological breakthroughs that allow us to produce more with less ... in a smaller footprint and
do it faster.”
T;; ;;;;;;;;;;;; ;;;;;;;;;; industry has
come under scrutiny in recent years for high concentrations of pesticide, chemicals used in land
fumigation and issues surrounding water usage
and runoff. While Costco’s conventional strawberry suppliers, such as A&W, utilize methods that
mitigate or eliminate these concerns, Windset
Farms decided to look inside for an answer.
Literally. The company is among the first in the
United States to grow strawberries hydroponically.
Windset Farms operates a ;;;-acre hydroponic greenhouse (aka hothouse) operation in
Santa Maria, California. It’s one of their four
greenhouse operations in North America. Like Go
Green Agriculture but on a much larger scale,
Windset grows produce in massive, climate-controlled greenhouses bursting at
the seams with technological
advances. This setup allows them
to bring fresh produce to tables
year-round, using minimal
resources to boot. During a tour,
a quick glance up at the rooftop
solar panels revealed only the tip
of the technological iceberg.
“We’re almost more of a technology company
than a farm or produce company,” says Windset
CEO Steven Newell. “All of farming has been
impacted by technology, but I think in the green-
house it’s even more applicable. It’s soup to nuts,
quite frankly, when it comes to what we get out of
technology. We’re always investing in it heavily
While tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers
are the main crops grown on-site among the five
greenhouses in Santa Maria, the smallest one (if
you consider ;; acres small) houses the strawber-
“We’re almost more of a technology
company than a farm or produce
company. We’re always investing
in it heavily every year.”—Steven Newell
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here to watch automation at
Go Green. (See page 13 for details.)