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New $17M hydroponic greenhouse operation planned for Goochland County
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New $17M hydroponic greenhouse operation planned for Goochland County

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Food production in hydroponic plant, lettuce

Growing lettuce using a hydroponic plant growing system.

A hydroponic farming operation is being planned for the West Creek business park in Goochland County.

Greenswell Growers Inc. is planning to invest more than $17 million to open a new, commercial hydroponic greenhouse in the park, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office announced Tuesday.

Greenswell Growers was founded by Chuck Metzgar, a former managing director for the human resources consulting firm Mercer; Doug Pick, the president and chief executive officer of Feed More, the hunger relief agency that operates Virginia’s largest food bank; and John May, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Innovation and Development in Kilmarnock.

The hydroponic greenhouse is expected to be able to produce 28 times more product per acre than a traditional growing operation and will be the fifth of its kind in the United States, according to the governor’s release.

It is expected to produce nearly 3.7 million pounds of leafy greens for distribution in the mid-Atlantic region during its first three years of full production, the release said. The company also plans to donate 5% of its production to area food banks, including Goochland Cares and Feed More.

“We believe that food has the power to change lives,” said Metzgar, the company’s chairman. “Greenswell Growers is proud to bring our large-scale indoor growing facility to Goochland where we will provide delicious, safe, and sustainably grown leafy greens that are good for our community — while giving back to our community. We will accomplish this goal while at the same time using innovative packaging that reduces plastic and increases the shelf life of our product by over 200 percent.”

The greenhouse operation will create 27 new jobs, along with internships and learning opportunities for Goochland County High School’s Career and Technical Education students, Northam’s office said.

The project site is at 1343 Hockett Road, which also is state Route 623, said Casey Verburg, economic development coordinator for Goochland.

Greenswell Growers raised $10.799 million in an equity offering from two investors, according to a document filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in May.

Northam approved a $130,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund for the project. Goochland is matching that with local funds.

In return for state incentives, Greenswell Growers has committed to build and operate two greenhouses over three years. Each greenhouse will be 1.5 acres, said Michael Wallace, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

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