Once upon a time, lettuce lovers in southern Minnesota had to wait nearly a week to get “fresh” greens from their local grocers, only to find that the crisp in their salad’s crunch was less than satisfying. Then came Revol Greens, whose local greenhouses not only cut down on transit time for the leafy produce, but protected consumers from contaminants.
With 90% of greens and packaged salads originating from the west coast, Revol Greens has eliminated the lack of fresh lettuce in the Midwest over the last three years with its Owatonna greenhouse. In June, the company announced that they had officially completed their greenhouse expansion project, bringing their lettuce farms from 2 acres to 10 and allowing them to keep up with consumer demands.
“From the beginning we knew we would grow rapidly, though we didn’t quite know how rapidly,” said Marco de Bruin, owner and co-founder of Revol Greens. “We’re growing fast and we are fortunate to have a very talented group of people, which is key in agriculture, horticulture and production. This great group of people has helped make Revol what it is today.”
Revol Greens grows lettuce — including baby arugula, baby spinach, red and green leaf lettuces, romaine and butter leaf — year-round indoors in a greenhouse-protected environment. The product is then delivered throughout the Midwest at a faster rate than the lettuce that must be shipped from California or Arizona.
In 2019, shortly after announcing the Owatonna expansion project, the company expanded to southern California with a 16-acre facility near Los Angeles. The site is part of the former 64-acre SunSelect Produce greenhouse.
De Bruin said that in both the Owatonna and California locations, the product travels on average one to two days before reaching local supermarkets.
“Compared to other lettuce that is getting packaged and shipped across the country for about a five to seven day transit time, we are very close to our ag users,” de Bruin said. “From the time between harvest and packaging, we are able to chill our lettuce within 30 minutes to preserve … its crispness – that is practically impossible to do in the field.”
Another perk of the greenhouse atmosphere, de Bruin said, is the safety that comes with the indoor growing environment. Since Revol Greens’ inception, there have been three major lettuce recalls due to health concerns that have impacted the local area. Most recently, stores including Aldi and Hy-Vee issued a recall for 13 of its bagged salad products due to possible Cyclospora parasite contamination. The recall covers the grocery chain’s entire eight-state trade region of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
As of Tuesday, the recalled salad products have sickened 206 people in seven states, with 23 being sent to the hospital. Illnesses started on dates ranging from May 11 June 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventon.
With Revol Greens products being grown completely indoors, de Bruin said that its lettuce is safe from contamination which is commonly spread through contaminated food or water.
“Each time it has been specifically called out that greenhouse lettuce is OK,” de Bruin said of the different lettuce recalls that have occurred in the last three years, the most recent being an E. coli outbreak across the nation in just before the 2018 holiday season via romaine lettuce. “Our products are healthy, nutritious, have a longer shelf life, but most importantly are safe.”
It has been about a year and half since the company first stated that they would be expanding its greenhouse, originally planning on doubling in size. The completion of the expansion will bring an additional 25 jobs to Owatonna, doubling the current employee size at the greenhouse.
De Bruin said that moving forward, the company plans to expand the California facility, find a location in Texas for a third greenhouse, and eventually build a new warehouse and packing plant behind the Owatonna greenhouse, as well as add 12 to 15 acres of greenhouses in locally.
“Our home base for sure is Steele County, we are very happy here,” de Bruin said. “We are nowhere near done yet in Owatonna.”