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The new face of farming

Innovative ideas take root in San Diego


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Take a good look at Pierre Sleiman Jr. If he has anything to say about it, you're looking at the new face of farming. Pierre, along with his dad, Pierre Sleiman Sr., started their hydroponic lettuce farm in 2009 with the long-term goal of creating other urban mini-farms throughout the U.S., supplying locally grown, organic produce. His idea was so exciting, his once-skeptical dad quit his job to work alongside this budding entrepreneur and today, they grow the butter lettuce hydroponically at Go Green Agriculture, their Encinitas farm. Hydroponic means growing plants in nutrient-enhanced water rather than soil.

"We have these channels and basically water is pumped through 24 hours a day—never stops and that water has all the nutrients the plants need for optimal growth," Pierre said. "It's pumped very slowly and then the roots just sit bare in the water with no soil at all."

It takes about five weeks until the lettuce is ready for harvest. In the meantime, Pierre is able to monitor everything at the touch of a button: temperature, nutrient level and water distribution. Having environmental control over his farm is just one way Pierre hopes to centralize farming more and have more farms come back into the cities.

But that is only part of Pierre's business plan. The other is providing unique products for folks to enjoy, such as his butter lettuce. After harvest, the lettuce is packed in clamshell containers, with the roots still attached. Why? The roots continue to deliver water and nutrients to the lettuce, increasing its shelf life. The lettuce is a big hit among his nearly 400 customers—from small, local restaurants to large corporations such as the Hyatt hotel chain and Whole Foods Market.

By getting out into their community and putting a face on the folks growing our food, Pierre and his father hope to bridge the gap between farm to fork more than ever. And by combining technology and ingenuity, they also hope to build a sustainable local food supply, one city and salad bar at a time.

For more information about Go Green Agriculture, visit www.gogreenagriculture.com.


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