Irvine company Urban Produce harnesses new technology to grow food

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Using little water, soil or space, high-density vertical growing is the latest in agriculture technology

Despite interest from casinos and the U.S. military, founder of Urban Produce Ed Horton put his first warehouse in Irvine.

"On approximately 5,800 square feet, we can grow the equivalent of about 16 acres of product," Horton said.

Horton and a team of scientists designed high-density vertical growing, using hydroponic technology that grows on coconut core. No soil is required.

"We have the capability of growing indoors, we can grow outside, we can grow on rooftops, we can grow in basements," Horton said.

One-eighth of an acre yields acres of product using natural or artificial LED lighting. Growing indoors means bugs and water aren't much of an issue.

"We have design software that controls the conveyor system, the lighting system and the watering system. We know exactly what's growing on each and every carrier," Horton said.

Urban Produce currently grows micro-greens, which are a more nutrient dense green. They grow unique blends and flavor profiles like "ABC," which stands for alfalfa, broccoli and collards, or "Kale-ifornia," a kale and broccoli combo.

This type of growing uses 90 percent less water and 80 percent less fertilizer. The produce can actually be healthier for you because of the way it's sold in stores.

"We're actually giving it to the retailers live with the roots still attached to its parent plant. While you're preserving all of those live enzymes, vitamins and minerals until you cut it, you're actually getting 100 percent of all that nutrition that that plant has to offer," Urban Produce nutritionist Danielle Horton said.

Danielle Horton says buying live produce offers nutritional value four to six times greater than adult cut plant food and it's a money saver too. Since the plant's roots are intact, you can use when ready. No spoilage.

"It has a longer shelf life. It will last 30 to 40 days in your refrigerator," Ed Horton said.

Urban Produce products can be found at farmers markets and select grocery stores.

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