CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The hydroponically-grown lettuce from Great Lakes Growers is essentially “E. coli proof,” thanks to a series of safe guards put in place by owner John Bonner.
So while the rest of the country is throwing out lettuce purchased elsewhere, their business is experiencing a massive uptick.
Demand for their products skyrockets amid widespread E. coli scares, like the nationwide one currently being blamed for more than 100 illnesses in 23 states.
“There is this massive swell of demand because everyone had to throw out all their romaine,” said Bonner.
Prices go up, because the industry can’t meet the demand. But they’re trying.
“It’s creating a massive growth trend in our industry. We’ve doubled the size of the business since 2015, just doubled it again this year, about to finish up that, and we’re about to double it again this spring. The growth is really incredible,” he said.
Bonner said they’re growing 5 million heads and 4000,000 pounds of cut lettuce every year.
They’ll soon be adding two more acres to grow products similar to romaine, in response to the frequent recalls. All the while, they’re working diligently to ensure safe lettuce.
They avoid E. coli contamination, by watering the roots from underneath through aluminum channels, not on the leaves itself which are consumed. And the roots are removed upon shipping, so Bonner said there’s very little chance anything could happen.
He says they closely monitor for bacteria levels in their recycled water.
“We have a system in place that virtually eliminates the risk of it. and we also do testing every week with a third party to verify that,” Bonner said.
They’re working to rise to the occasion, but it can’t happen overnight.
“Seed to sale” takes them 30-45 days.