Massive Greenhouse Project in Rochester, NY nears groundbreaking a year late

CONTENT SOURCED FROM DEMOCRAT&CHRONICLE

Construction should begin this spring on a large hydroponic greenhouse at Eastman Business Park where organic leafy greens will be grown year-round.

Clearwater Organic Farms' ground-breaking is tentatively set for April, nearly a year later than originally promised. Company officials and others say extra time was needed to finalize financing and other aspects of the deal.

"It’s still coming. It's very close. We’re very excited about it," said Alex Wasilov, the company's chairman.

If all goes as planned, the operation could be up and running by the fall. It will be the largest hydroponic greenhouse growing leafy greens in the country.

Clearwater expects to hire about 30 people initially, Wasilov said. Envisioned expansions should push employment over 100, he said.

The 475,000-square-foot greenhouse will sit on 13 acres at the business park's western edge. Clearwater will lease the site from Lidestri Food & Drink, which has a compound of buildings on adjacent parcels.

The hydroponic greenhouse initially will grow spinach, basil and arugula, Wasilov said. Plants will grow in nutrient-rich recirculated water, an approach that Clearwater says is much more efficient than growing in soil.

The operation will be at least the second commercial hydroponic greenhouse in the area. Bolton Farms in Parma, which opened a decade ago, grows lettuce, tomatoes, beans and other products.

The greenhouse will be Clearwater's first. The computer-controlled growing technology will be supplied by an established company based near Montreal, HydroNov, that has installed water-growing operations in the United States, Canada, China and several other countries.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the Clearwater project last May, saying the $50 million undertaking would receive up to $6 million in state financial support. At the time, he said the project eventually would employ 137 people.

The company has been in regular communication with the town of Greece and is expected to apply for its building permit in coming days, town development-services director Gary Tajkowski said Wednesday. The company also has asked permission to begin site clearance.

"I don’t know why they’ve gone through these delays. Maybe they were chasing financing. But in any case, they are preparing to take out a building permit and begin work," he said.