Kansas City's riverfront seeks to grow new business - KCTV5

Group plans large greenhouse farm in Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Imagine thousands of fresh tomatoes ripening on the vine right in Kansas City, even during the winter weather. An announcement Monday is going to make that a reality on Kansas City's riverfront.

After years of wondering what would become of the riverfront space, it now has its first concrete deal: a corporate-run greenhouse.

New York-based BrightFarms will lease 100,000 square feet from KC Port Authority and will grow produce for a yet to be announced grocery chain in the metro.

"We're cutting out a tremendous amount of cost by cutting the shipping from west coast, Mexico or Canada and we're looking to maintain prices for that reason," BrightFarms Chief Executive Officer Paul Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot says he made a list of 20 cities the company wanted to expand to and Kansas City's administration aggressively responded.

"It's got a community that wants and embraces local produce and is important in its demand," Lightfoot said.

Urban farms like Cultivate KC in Kansas City, KS, support diversifying the homegrown produce market.

While BrightFarms is admittedly a departure from Cultivate KC's nonprofit model, urban farmers like Katherine Kelly say it furthers the discussion in eating and buying local.

"I think they could become a really good contributing piece of our food system. They talk about providing good jobs, and I hope that's the case and we certainly support them, that being the case," Kelly said.

The project will cost KC Port Authority up to $400,000 in infrastructure costs, while BrightFarms plans to spend $4 million.

Lightfoot says the green house will provide 25 "green-collared" jobs and 100 more in construction.

BrightFarms will not be able to give its produce a USDA Certified Organic stamp. Instead, the company will use integrated pest management, or IPM.

Kate Siskel with BrightFarms says the company will "grow in the spirit of the organic movement, with a focus on conserving natural resources and promoting health and well-being."

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, IPM is an environmentally sensitive approach to pest control.

Methods still involve synthetic chemicals but in the least hazardous ways for people, property and the environment.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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