Local business develops technology that could prevent outbreaks in their crops

Posted at 9:07 AM, Nov 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 12:07:36-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A lettuce grower in Encinitas has developed technology that addresses food safety concerns and it’s being eyed as a way to eliminate outbreaks like the recent E. coli outbreak announced by the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday.

Pierre Sleiman, the founder of Go Green Agriculture, has been growing lettuce for 10 years. The romaine lettuce recall on Tuesday includes all types across the entire nation, but “we never see it this bad,” Slieman told 10News.

Sleiman sells his butter lettuce to 20 stores around San Diego. On Tuesday, he got an email from many of the buyers telling all farmers to not send any romaine lettuce and “trucks should be turned around immediately; everything’s being dumped and destroyed on site.”

RELATED: Romaine lettuce warning: CDC urges people not to buy or eat it due to E. coli risk

Since Sleiman grows butter lettuce, he said he was bombarded after the recall was announced.

“The moment the recall hit, our phones blew up and everyone wanted to increase their orders on butter lettuce to compensate,” said Sleiman.

Not only does his lettuce stand out because it’s different, it is also grown much differently than most.

“We basically know, using science, what are the ideal conditions for a plant to grow and we replicate that year-round,” said Sleiman, who explained to 10News his process of growing lettuce, also known as controlled environment.

Technology around the greenhouse controls the temperature, humidity, sunlight and carbon dioxide levels second by second, feeding it to the computers.

Sleiman said, “If it’s too sunny, it’ll turn off all lights, retract the shade curtains to cover the crops.”

They also harvest the lettuce in beds lifted three feet off the ground, completely isolated from the outside, away from animals and bugs.

“You can never say never, but it pretty much guarantees that that everything is 100 percent safe,” said Sleiman.

Because of the technology Go Green Agriculture has developed to address food safety concerns, one of their top customers is funding a new controlled environment.

Their new building, built on 20 acres of land, will grow only romaine lettuce year-round.

Sleiman said it’ll produce about a million heads of romaine a month and will prevent the customer from dealing with outbreaks and help avoid recalls like this.