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Great Lakes Growers Opens the Doors to their Hydroponic Greenhouse

The first Lighthouse Tour of 2024 took place at Great Lakes Growers, who opened the doors of their hydroponic greenhouse to MAGNET, Geauga Growth Partnership (GGP) and local manufacturers.

Located in Burton, OH, Great Lakes Growers have adopted Industry 4.0 technologies throughout the years to adapt to changing economic, workforce and world forces. John Bonner, Great Lakes Grower’s owner, mapped out a growth plan and partnered with MAGNET (through a GGP connection) to implement the changes in their Harvesting Room. According to Bonner, when planning for advancement, “you have to think incrementally and vet out the elements to see what will work for your business. You cannot change everything overnight, but you can make small, incremental steps towards automation and efficiency.”

Bonner’s growing roots run deep, having grown up on his family farm in Burton among 30 acres of corn, soybeans and greenhouses. His grandfather started the Midwest’s largest horticultural supply distributor, Burton Floral and Garden, and his father created Dillen products, a top supplier of plastic containers for the plant industry. In 2012, armed with loads of experience and determination, Bonner launched this new kind of hydroponic growing operation and Great Lakes Growers was born.

Since it began, Great Lakes Growers has systematically expanded their operation to include 35 food service products and 25-30 retail products. You will see their products in Heinen’s, Giant Eagle, and Costco – if you're having a sandwich at a Wendy’s in Canada, it is thanks to Great Lakes Growers lettuce!

Hydroponic growing means that no soil or dirt is used in the process, resulting in a clean, tasty, and fresh product. Water is constantly moving through the premises – it is fed to the plants, brought back in and thoroughly washed, then pH and nutrient levels are balanced, and the process begins again. The light, irrigation and water systems are all tailored specifically to growing lettuce, resulting in a superior product. Because hydroponic plants get the perfect amount of nutrients, water and oxygen, they grow 25% faster than they do in traditional soil farming. The setup of a hydroponic greenhouse means they can grow nearly 20 times the amount produced in the same space as traditional field farming.

Bonner and his team are a testament to Industry 4.0 pillars. Adding automation in strategic areas has made their process more efficient in key areas, while empowering employees with more strategic contributions to the process. This leads to better production rates and an invested commitment to quality.

Next time you are in the grocery store, check for the Great Lakes Growers products and eat easy knowing that your produce was harvested and packaged only a day or two before arriving in the aisles of your local produce section.

Thank you to Great Lakes Growers for opening your doors and showing off your innovative technology and beautiful greenhouse!


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