Lots and lots of lettuceA feasibility study for a greenhouse that would produce 4.5 million heads of lettuce per year was accepted by Jamestown/ Stutsman Development Corp. Monday. The study for the Controlled Environment Agricultural facility was funded by the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission and the JSDC.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
A feasibility study for a greenhouse that would produce 4.5 million heads of lettuce per year was accepted by Jamestown/ Stutsman Development Corp. Monday. The study for the Controlled Environment Agricultural facility was funded by the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission and the JSDC.
The board accepted the study but was not asked to take any action to advance the project at this time.
“The feasibility study could be applied to any size of operation,” said Connie Ova, JSDC chief executive officer. “Initially we had talked about a 20-acre facility but we think we’re better off to do a model project.”
Ova said a smaller project would provide a good starting point with the possible expansion of the business at a later time.
“A 2.7-acre facility would give us the opportunity to kick off the concept,” she said. “We could provide tours and use it as a training facility for farmers and horticulturists in training that could live on site.”
There are still some decisions to be made before a CEA could be constructed, according to Steve Froehlich, owner of Hydrosun Hydroponics and the study’s author.
“The next steps are to produce construction drawings and specifications along with making some final equipment selections,” Froehlich said. “After these are accomplished we can start getting bids and determining real costs.”
The project has a preliminary estimate of about $10 million and is planned for the I-94 Business Park, Ova said.
One of the equipment decisions still pending is the type of supplemental lighting to be used.
The normal light fixtures and supports block some of the natural light coming in through the greenhouse roof during the day. A new development is a plasma light that is smaller and generates a light that is closer to natural sunlight. However, plasma light bulbs cost about $1,000 each.
“Our facility is designed to maximize natural lights but some supplemental light is necessary,” Froehlich said. “The new technology in plasma lights is still being researched.”
Other pending decisions include the variety of leaf lettuce to grow in the facility and whether to package the produce for bulk distribution or in table-ready packages.
Even though this project is considered a demonstration, it will produce about 4.5 million heads of lettuce per year. This is about 7 percent of the annual lettuce consumption in North Dakota and Minnesota.
JSDC officials are meeting with possible financers for the project and hope to break ground later in 2012.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com