Cleburne-based Eden Green Technology broke ground on the first commercial version of its modular, vertical hydroponic greenhouse concept Wednesday.
The new 83,000-square-foot facility will employ 30 people and produce as much as 600 of tons of leafy greens annually, the company says. Farmers Branch-based real estate and construction firm Ryan Companies US will build the facility, which is expected to be completed in early 2022.
Eden Green has operated an experimental research facility for three years, growing rosemary, lettuce, dill, basil and other vegetables in a proprietary plastic “vine” system that spans 40,000 square feet. The greenhouse technology installed throughout the translucent R&D structure adjusts to the plants’ water and light needs and allows growers to stagger planting for what the company calls a “perpetual harvest” throughout the year.
“We’ve made every mistake you can make and learned from it,” Eden Green director of sales Harrison Tomlinson told visitors on a tour of the research facility after the groundbreaking ceremony.
Since vertically grown crops take up less space than traditional farming plots, Eden Green advertises that its greenhouses can be situated closer to the communities and businesses they serve, keeping greens fresher because they aren’t transported great lengths. The company says it is in the process of signing agreements to sell its hydroponic produce to multiple distributors.
It also sees its technology as a solution to food deserts and says each greenhouse can can comfortably employ dozens of people in a community while providing full benefits for those employees.
The new greenhouse facility is next to its existing R&D greenhouse in Cleburne. It is being funded by a recent $12 million infusion of capital from existing investors, according to a March release from Eden Green. The company said it originally planned to break ground on the new development in the spring, but that was delayed by construction materials shortages.
The new commercial greenhouse is a proving point for the young company, according to CEO Eddy Badrina.
Eden Green’s technology has piqued the interests of investors and clients, Badrina said. But with just a research facility, the company has yet to prove that the modular greenhouse concept can be set up and run as a profitable business while supporting jobs in a community.
“What we’re finding out is no one wants to be first … and no one wants to be last,” Badrina said. “We’re going to put our money where our mouth is, and we’re going to build this commercial concept.”
The company said its commercial greenhouses can be cash flow positive within 90 days of launching.
Eden Green was founded by South African engineers Jacques and Eugene van Buuren with the aim of revolutionizing food production. For years, the company has worked to make its business model profitable, according to a ProPublica investigation that raised questions about the ethics of Eden Green co-chairman Gentry Beach’s ties to former President Donald Trump.
And in 2018, the company settled a lawsuit with one of its largest investors, who alleged that it had mismanaged $19 million in investments in nine months. Eden Green has publicly maintained that it has plenty of cash.
Badrina said Wednesday that he believes the startup will be profitable by the end of this year.