Group plans large greenhouse farm in Kansas City

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 | 11:10 a.m. CDT

KANSAS CITY — A private group that began by growing rooftop gardens in New York City wants to build a $4 million, 100,000-square-foot hydroponic garden on the riverfront in Kansas City, with a goal of raising a million pounds of tomatoes, lettuce and herbs every year.

Officials with BrightFarms Inc. and the Port Authority of Kansas City announced Monday a plan to build the greenhouse on a 5-acre tract just east of the Heart of America Bridge and next to Berkley Riverfront Park. Hydroponic farms use water instead of soil to quickly grow large produce.

The port authority and BrightFarms have not finalized a 10-year lease, but the Port Authority and other city officials say they are confident a deal will be reached soon , The Kansas City Star reported. The hydroponic farm is expected to bring 100 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs when it opens later this year.

"It's all about producing produce at the same price, but thousands of miles closer or hours old instead of weeks," BrightFarms CEO Paul Lightfoot said. "It's tastier, fresher and more delicious."

BrightFarms, which began as a nonprofit in 2006, also is planning projects in St. Louis; St. Paul, Minn.; and the New York borough of Brooklyn, he said.

Lightfoot said BrightFarms wants to partner with a local supermarket chain to distribute its produce but is still in negotiations.

Port Authority executive director Michael Collins said the authority will make infrastructure improvements to assist the project, including truck access and electrical service, but BrightFarms was not offered incentives.

The project is within a redevelopment area established by the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority and could apply for a property tax abatement from that agency.

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