Virterras, a company that develops sustainable technologies in the energy, food and water industries, is planning a large state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse in northeastern Pennsylvania.
“Today, over 65 percent of all fresh produce in the U.S. is imported,” explains Virterras President Walton Clark. “To survive the long-haul shipping, it's picked before it is ripe. Varieties are selected for shipping, maximum shelf life and visual appeal, but are completely lacking in taste and have limited nutritional value. To bring back taste we need to be producing locally.”
The first planned crop?
“Great-tasting local tomatoes picked at absolute ripeness for better taste and nutrition,” he enthuses.
Several sites are under consideration for the first phase of the greenhouse, which will cover 10 acres under glass and is projected to create up to 40 jobs. Construction is projected to begin later this year, with the goal of expanding in multiple phases and over time to other Pennsylvania locations, boosting overall employment to up to 140.
According to Clark, Virterras chose northeastern Pennsylvania based on the state's pro-business stance, access to the East Coast U.S. markets and help from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP), which recently made a $50,000 investment in the company.
“Virterras’ site selection in Pennsylvania, innovative facility design and environmentally sustainable growing practices will provide naturally ripened, fresh produce to local stores with significant improvements in product taste and nutrition,” said BFTP/NEP when announcing its loan. “The market for fresh, local food is growing rapidly…and Virterras is part of a growing trend of bringing back local agriculture and jobs to Pennsylvania.”
Virterras, whose corporate office is temporarily located in Moosic, Penn., acquires or partners with developers of new technologies, targeting industrial production methods and resources for energy, food and water.
“Virterras defines success in terms of environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and social responsibility,” explains Clark. “By combining these principles with innovative technology, Virterras develops projects such as the greenhouse project.”
Source: Walton Clark, Virterras
Writer: Elise Vider