July 2, 2023

Borderlands: Texas vertical farms designed to disrupt fresh produce supply chains


Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Vertical farms in Texas are designed to disrupt fresh produce supply chains; Mexico imposes a 50% tariff on white corn exports from the U.S.; Quality Custom Distribution is opening a new facility in Texas; and CBP officers seized nearly 900,000 fentanyl pills in California.

Texas vertical farms designed to disrupt fresh produce supply chains

Eden Green Technology aims to revolutionize the fresh produce supply chain using indoor vertical farming.

The farming technology company is based in Cleburne, Texas, just outside the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Eden Green Technology operates a vertical greenhouse near a large Walmart distribution center that supplies more than 400 stores in Texas and Oklahoma. 

“What we do is we combine the best of both worlds in terms of controlled environment agriculture (CEA). We combine the density of a vertical farm but we’re in a greenhouse; 80% to 90% of our plants’ needs in terms of light come through the sun,” Eddy Badrina, CEO of Eden Green Technology, told FreightWaves.

Badrina said about 90% of the country’s lettuce comes from California’s Salinas and Imperial valleys and Yuma, Arizona — meaning that almost all of the lettuce eaten by consumers on the East Coast has traveled more than 3,000 miles.

Eden Green’s facility is capable of growing 2 million pounds of lettuce per year. The company also grows an array of other fresh produce and herbs, including cilantro, mint, peppers, peas, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Robinson Fresh, a nationwide provider of fresh produce and supply chain services, is the distributor of Eden Green’s produce. As part of its offerings, Eden Green is supplying romaine and butterhead lettuce under the Robinson Fresh brand to some of the largest retailers in the U.S.

“We’re able to do greenhouse farming very efficiently and also able to provide it very affordably to the average consumer,” Badrina said. “From a distribution standpoint, an aspect of our affordability is the fact that we can place our greenhouses right next to distribution centers, virtually eliminating the supply chain costs.”

Eden Green Technology currently has two vertical greenhouses totaling more than 100,000 square feet of grow space. The company is also in the process of building two additional facilities to double its capacity by the end of the year.

Eden Green Technology is not the only CEA company making big moves in the Lone Star State. In May, Revol Greens opened what company officials said is the world’s single-largest CEA lettuce facility ever built. The facility is located in Temple, Texas, about 70 miles north of Austin.

The Temple facility is expected to significantly expand Revol Green’s distribution in Texas as well as the central and southern United States, according to a news release.

“We are on a mission to provide fresh, affordable lettuce to consumers across the country,” Michael Wainscott, CEO of Revol Greens, said in a statement. “The addition of the Temple facility opens new markets, allowing for further reduction of food miles typically traveled within the U.S. salad market.”

Minnesota-based Revol Greens also has existing greenhouse operations in Owatonna, Minnesota; Athens, Georgia; and Tehachapi, California. The company has distribution partnerships with H-E-B, Sprouts, Costco, Walmart, Kroger, Target, United Supermarket and Amazon Fresh. 

Officials for Revol Greens did not respond to a request for comment from FreightWaves.

Minnesota-based Revol Greens has opened what it says is the world’s single-largest controlled environment agriculture lettuce facility ever built in Temple, Texas. (Photo: Revol Greens)

Compared to traditional farms, Badrina said Eden Green can grow produce faster and more efficiently. For a head of lettuce, the company can grow it from a seed and have it harvested within 24 to 28 days.

“In Salinas Valley, if you were to grow a head of lettuce, it would take 65 to 90 days, maybe more. It would involve a lot of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and then in the amount of 30 gallons of water per head of lettuce,” Badrina said. “In contrast, we’ll go from seed to harvest in 28 days, and we’re bumping that actually down to 24 as we speak. It will go from seed to packaging in literally 1,500 feet and then from pack into cold storage in 20 minutes, all the while only using two and a half gallons of water as opposed to 30 gallons.”

The founders of Eden Green are South African brothers Eugene and Jacques van Buuren. The van Buuren brothers were already living in the Dallas area when they founded the company in 2017.

Badrina said the van Buuren brothers chose the site in Cleburne because of its proximity to the Walmart distribution center.

“They established it there because they knew in their minds a retailer like Walmart is someone they would want to pursue as a customer,” Badrino said. “As we expand our decentralized network, we do want to be within striking distance or even adjacent to distribution centers — because we need labor, we need access to trucking lanes and we need efficiency in terms of land. That’s why we chose Cleburne and why our future plans dictate that we will be in and around distribution centers across the United States.”

Eden Green is supplying romaine and butterhead lettuce under the Robinson Fresh brand to some of the largest retailers in the U.S. (Photo: Eden Green Technology)

Mexico announces 50% tariff on white corn exports from US

Amid a growing trade dispute, Mexico began imposing a 50% tariff on white corn exports entering the country from the United States on June 24.

The tariffs will be in place until the end of the year and are part of an ongoing trade spat between Mexico and the U.S. over genetically modified (GM) corn.

Mexico wants to restrict imports of genetically modified corn from the U.S., aiming to eliminate the use of the herbicide glyphosate and GM corn in the country. 

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai initiated a dispute consultation request with Mexico over the corn ban on June 2 using the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The consultations will last 75 days. If no resolution is reached, officials can call for a third-party dispute panel.

Quality Custom Distribution to open new facility in Texas 

Frisco, Texas-based Quality Custom Distribution (QCD) announced it is opening a new distribution center in San Antonio. 

The facility in San Antonio will be 116,000 square feet and support more than 250 customer stores in Texas. The distribution center is scheduled to open in August

With the expansion, QCD will have 25 distribution centers across the country, making up to 35,000 last-mile deliveries weekly to four quick-service restaurant brands, according to a news release

QCD is a division of Irvine, California-based Golden State Foods, one of the largest suppliers to the food service and retail industries.

CBP officers seize nearly 900,000 fentanyl pills in California

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Otay Mesa port of entry near San Diego recently intercepted 189 pounds of fentanyl pills from a cross-border shipment.

The incident occurred last Monday, when a 45-year-old Mexican national applied for entry into the U.S. through the Otay Mesa cargo facility while driving a Ford cargo van. The driver presented a shipping manifest for two porcelain sinks. 

While searching the van, CBP officers reportedly found 12 packages containing 858,000 fentanyl pills, with an estimated street value of $2.6 million.

The case was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations.

Watch: Dealing with the challenges of delivering refrigerated produce.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

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