Harvesting Heroes: Superior Fresh shapes the future of agriculture

Harvesting Heroes

HIXTON, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Many say farmers are the small-town heroes that keep our communities moving forward. In our series Harvesting Heroes, we celebrate agriculture workers, whose hard work and innovation makes a difference.

In tonight’s Harvesting Heroes lettuce grown in water and salmon raised on land. One Jackson County farm is shaping the future of agriculture.

First News at Nine’s Maria Blough shares how this worldwide leader is making a splash from right here in western Wisconsin.

Acres and acres of lettuce float in this Jackson County greenhouse.

While most lettuce is planted in a field getting nutrients from the soil, at superior fresh. Things are done a little differently.

Molly Stanek, VP Of Growing & Operations said, “Here we’re able to seed into rafts designed to float on our ponds. We plant into a special blend that doesn’t contain nutrients. All it does is provide a substrate for the roots to grow and then the roots pull up all the nutrients that they need from our pond which is carefully filtered to provide exactly the levels of nutrients that the plants need.”

Molly stanek oversees the leafy greens part of the operation at superior fresh.

It takes about 3 weeks for these rafts to go from seed to ready to eat greens.

Stanek says their growing process makes them more adaptable.

“There is obviously a higher expense to growing in greenhouses, but it does give us a greater degree of control and that control allows us to produce in a more resource efficient manner and in a year-round fashion,” said Stanek.

At superior fresh, they’re able to produce lettuce using 20 times less water than field grown plants.

That water used in growing the greens starts its journey on the other side of the farm growing something else: Atlantic salmon.

Brandon Gottsacker, President-Superior Fresh said, “In most cases that nutrient or that wastewater from the fish is dumped into the ocean or the river and it’s lost forever, so we found a way to recapture all of that, use it to grow organic vegetables and then ultimately we capture all the production water from the facility and irrigate it right back onto the farm.”

Brandon Gottsacker has been a part of superior fresh since its inception in 2012, working with the founding family to get it off the ground.

They started with a one-acre fish house and a 3-acre greenhouse.

Now the fish house is double in size and the greenhouse has more than quadrupled for this one-of-a-kind operation.

Gottsacker said, “Typically its grown in Norway or Chile and its flown thousands of miles or shipped thousands of miles to get to the united states, so we’re actually the first indoor Atlantic salmon farm in the united states.”

They sold their first head of lettuce in 2017 and the first salmon in 2018.

As superior fresh keeps expanding, in the upcoming months it’ll be growing up to 1 point 5 million pounds of fish each year.

Gottsacker said, “Ultimately our end goal is to continue to improve and innovate and find solutions to grow really good, healthy seafood specifically and leafy green vegetables closer to the market, do it more sustainably with less water and chemical-free.”

From the heart of the Midwest, superior fresh is bringing the farm closer to consumers.

In the process, it’s showing another way to farm with sustainability at the center.

In Hixton, Maria Blough First News at Nine.

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