St. Paul-Based Urban Organics Aims To Provide Local Greens All Year Long

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota winters aren’t exactly ideal growing conditions for fresh local produce. One St. Paul company is working to bring local, organic greens to store shelves all year long.

Urban Organics is among the first to begin mass producing several varieties of lettuce within city limits prompting an agricultural evolution, of sorts.

Outdoor farming is moving inside because of people like Dave Haider.

“It’s absolutely perfect growing conditions 365 days a year,” Haider said.

Dave is the co-owner of Urban Organics, which produces locally-grown, organic leafy greens.

“I think people are starting to have a deeper focus on where their food comes from,” Haider said.

That interest has led to incredible growth since the company’s launch four years ago. Haider started with a smaller operation in the Hamm’s brewery but recently expanded to a new 90,000 square facility in the old Schmidt Brewery.

“I don’t think we anticipated such a high demand so quickly,” Haider said.

Urban Organics has found success using aquaponics and hydroponics, a process where fish and water are combined to help plants grow.

Each leafy green sprouts in nutrient filled water funneled from onsite tanks containing salmon and char.

“We capture the waste, remove the solid waste and ammonia in the water. It’s converted to nitrates through a biological filter and it’s that nitrate rich water that provides all the nutrients, all the nitrogen for the plants,” Haider said.

Dave said the end result is a growing system that uses less than five percent of water compared to conventional agriculture and ultimately allows fresh greens to reach store shelves within a day and a half.

“Very low impact on the environment,” Haider said.

The products are in most co-ops around the Twin Cities and three Lunds/Byerly’s stores. For more on where and what lettuce varieties are available, go here.

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