Butter lettuce seeds drop into the Styrofoam palettes on the assembly line. As they fall into the rich soil, they are sprayed with rainwater. These seeds then travel to the germination room, a room that feels like a hot sticky Central Texas day after it rains. With HVAC tubes circulating the air, the seeds are in optimal growing conditions without seeing the light of day. These seeds turn to sprouts and then drift to the hydroponic 20-acre greenhouse. For three weeks these sprouts turn into a lush harvest of a sea of green lettuce. The crop then heads to the packaging room where it is a crisp 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and the workers wear full-length parkas. The lettuce is sanitized by an LED light and is placed into its recyclable container that customers will see at the store, ready to eat without washing. This is Revol Greens — this is the future of farming.
Revol Greens is a Minnesota-based company that grows lettuce and greens year-round in their massive greenhouses. Since 2017, Revol Greens has expanded to California and Texas, specifically Central Texas. Assistant Grower at the Temple location, Sage Howell, said there is nothing like this in North America.
“We want to expand our distribution and with our strategic location on I-35, you can get to the D-FW metroplex, Houston, San Antonio and Austin relatively easily,” Howell said. “That’s very attractive for people that want to see products that are grown sustainably, utilizing the practices under Certified Organic to put on their shelves because the consumer is becoming more and more educated and discerning.”
Executive Director of the Waco Downtown Farmers Market Bethel Erickson said she doesn’t see Revol Greens as a competition-based threat because the more accessible fresh produce is to consumers the more benefits the public gains.
“Corporations are awesome because it hits a different market of people that aren’t coming to a farmers market,” Erickson said. “It’s still being locally produced and still getting food to people without the great food miles.”
Food miles is the calculated distance of the transportation of food from the producer to a consumer’s plate. According to The Guardian, food miles are likely responsible for six percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, with produce being the biggest contributor.
“Anything that we can do to cut down on those food miles and gas expenditures creates a more reliable local food system,” Erickson said. “I think it only makes us stronger the more producers that we have locally.”
Now with a 20-acre greenhouse 30 miles south of Waco, the food miles between Wacoans and Revol Greens are cut significantly. Since farmers markets rely heavily on the time of year and weather conditions, it affects what products they sell.
Revol Greens, however, has programmed its seed machines to create a specific type of crop. For example, romaine lettuce becomes the recipe of the day based on the needs of consumers. Once that crop makes it past the germination stage that has a 99 percentile of success, it goes into the greenhouse. The greenhouse is regulated by HVAC technology creating the perfect growing conditions along with LED lights so that even when it’s cloudy the plants can continue to grow.
“When it comes to agriculture, precision makes sure that we’re not wasting seeds, wasting resources,” Howell said. “We’re growing our crops under optimal conditions, to get our products to our partners.”
Even in record-breaking heat, the condensation from the greenhouse is used as the crop’s water source. In the event of a cold snap, Howell said their backup generators will be able to maintain optimal growing conditions for their various crops.
“I think the hydroponic alternative growing methods are so important because it’s so hard to grow here in Texas,” Erickson said. “Seeing more farms, even on a huge scale, be able to evolve and be more dependable when we have these droughts and high heats, it helps bridge that gap of being able to have a continuous supply of locally produced food. I’m all for it.”
Revol Greens grows butter lettuce, romaine, salad blends, salad kits, arugula and other assorted greens. Revol Greens is sold locally at H-E-B and Costco, and you can find the Waco Downtown Farmers Market every Saturday at 500 Washington Ave.