agriculture

Living Greens Farms eyes expansion

Dave Augustine, co-founder and CEO of Living Greens Farms of Faribault, is expanding from a three-year-old 5,000-square foot prototype “indoor farm” to a 45,000 square-foot facility.

A veteran corporate electrical engineer, Augustine and Chairman Dana Anderson, the other founder, have financed Living Greens so far with $7 million in 40 friends-and-family member equity and sales of produce to food cooperatives and several grocers.

“The expansion is half-built,” Augustine said last week. “Our technological advantage is taking common growing equipment and re-engineering it so that we can grow a lot more product in a lot less space for less capital cost, less labor, energy and water.”

Augustine, who projects profitability next year on sales of about $4.5 million, has started to solicit institutional investors for up to $20 million in additional equity capital.

Living Greens has signed a distribution deal with Robinson Fresh, a unit of third-party logistics firm C.H. Robinson, which will be the distributor of greens and herbs in North America to retailers such as Lunds and Byerly’s, and some Hy-Vee stores.

Living Greens uses an “aeroponic,” vertically stacked system that it says uses far less water, is disease resistant and grows faster without herbicides or pesticides. It grows lettuce, sprouts and herbs indoors in a nutrient-rich air-mist environment without soil.

Aeroponics is becoming economically viable and may revolutionize agriculture as the cost of traditional farming rises, according to the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development. Virtually any seasonal crop can be grown, including potatoes, cranberries and cabbage.

Anderson said Living Greens can grow on 1 acre what traditional farms grow on 200 acres.

The system uses 95 percent less water and fertilizer, reduces transportation costs and offers year-round production without the uses of pesticides. Plants grow twice as fast as they would in soil.

By supplying local customers, the days and miles in the supply chain is reduced while nutrients and quality increase, Living Greens contends.

neal st. anthony

manufacturing

NASA is latest customer for Schweiss Doors

In 1973, Renville County farmer Mike Schweiss started a manufacturing sideline in an out building where he tinkered with “chicken pluckers,” then hog-confinement pens, sheds and finally, a bi-fold door for a big county shed that held snowplows.

Schweiss thought the future might be in doors. The 65-employee Schweiss Doors has made a lot of doors since then, and this year expects revenue of about $16 million.

Schweiss recently completed two rocket hangar doors at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Fla.

The doors, six and seven stories tall, respectively, are two of the largest in Schweiss history. They cost $327,000 to manufacture and are wind-rated at 150 mph.

They are sturdy, to say the least.

The larger one is 90 feet wide by 60 feet tall, equipped with auto-latches, four bottom-drive 480-volt, three-phase motors and 31 patented Schweiss lift straps. The door weighs 53,000 pounds.

Kennedy Space Center, on the eastern coast of Florida, provides access to a wide range of low- and medium-inclination orbits frequently used by communications and earth-observing satellites and supply missions to the International Space Station.

Schweiss doors hang on the press box at the Philadelphia Phillies baseball stadium, Mall of America storefronts, an Arizona auto dealership, a Harley-Davidson dealer in Hawaii and the Ecology Center at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

neal st. anthony

green Minneapolis

City deal with Xcel pushes renewable electricity consumption to 38.6 percent

The Minneapolis Convention Center and one of the city’s two drinking water plants soon will be powered, in part, by local solar and wind from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Connect program.

“It is vital that we stay committed to ambitious climate goals that are detailed in our city’s climate action plan,” said Mayor Betsy Hodges, in a statement. “We are doing so by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. That is why the Clean Energy Partnership Board I co-chair brought forward this innovative program in partnership with Xcel Energy.”

Said Xcel Minnesota President Chris Clark: “This affordable program gives our customers more renewable energy options generated in Minnesota.”

Minneapolis will purchase 17.8 million kilowatt-hours of Xcel solar and wind energy annually, reducing the city’s overall carbon dioxide pollution footprint by 7,825 metric tons, or 12 percent.

Nearly 40 percent of total electricity purchased by the city will be from renewable sources.

NEAL ST. ANTHONY