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This announcement is one of many including large equity firms seeking investments in this “new” technology. It is not really new and in fact has been around for many years. However more recently the demand to continue to feed the world with the ever limited availability of land for field grown products has amped up the interest. The long use of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides used in soil based farming has led to nutrient runoff polluting our waterways and leaving soil devoid of the very nutrients needed to ensure healthy crops. Indoor vertical farms are seen as the solution to limited land availability, excess water use, pollution and an ease to a supply chain that often must import “fresh” product from hundreds if not thousands of miles away. Not to mention the attraction of year round production. Seen in this light I understand the interest.
So far the majority of the systems are being used to grow greens like lettuce. I chuckled as one critic pointed out that we are using all our intellectual creativity to create a system that grows lettuce that is essentially crunchy water and has the nutrients of a Kleenex (Michael W. Hamm Michigan State University Director of the center for Regional Food Systems).
I do believe that plant physiology is not that simple. The magic that takes place between the roots of plants and the soil microbes present in fertile soil is still not fully understood. Moreover, I agree with Gabe Brown in what he calls plant intelligence in that a plant will only produce what it needs. Often called the conservation of resources. Ironically it is the stress on a plant the signals the plant to produce various nutrients. Many of these nutrients are antioxidants that we benefit from when we consume the plant. In a perfect indoor growing system where is the stress?
We grow the plants that make up the base of all of our Tea’d Greens in the field. And like every dedicated farmer we work really hard at trying to understand the nature of soil so that we can continually enhance the fertility and tilth. This is an ongoing process.
Yes we could grow our plants to some degree hydroponically. In fact I have a lot of experience in this area which I will speak to in a later blog. But suffice to say, the complexity of nature, the soil and plants creates a curiosity in me that can only be quelled by immersing my hands in the very soil that I know I have so much more that nature can teach me. All the while striving to grow the most nutrient dense plants I can. working with it not against it.
The Greenfood industry is awash in different products sold by different companies. In essence the product comes down to two different forms of greens when speaking specifically about barley, wheat and oatgrass (also applies to alfalfa that is often included in a greens blend).
One form is produced when the leaves of the green barley etc are harvested and simply dehydrated resulting in a whole leaf dehydrated product. As an ingredient this product is cheaper to produce and hence cheaper to purchase as an ingredient for companies choosing this form. Companies like Greens Plus use this form of greens. Dehydration does have a degrading effect on the leaves and typically results in a light or pale green dried powder mostly accounted for by the slow degradation of the chlorophyll during drying. Ironically this is the same process that alfalfa goes thru for the volumes of alfalfa pellets sold into the livestock feed industry.
The second form of greens is juice powder. This process involves harvesting the leaves, running the leaves through a large screw press to extract the juice followed by drying the juice in a spray drier or the likes. There are a few companies using more expensive methods to dry the powder such as freeze drying or refractance window but invariably these processes are cost prohibitive. The interesting thing about drying juice powder in a spray drier is that it cannot be dried on its own. The natural sugars in the juice simply cause a sticky mess. The solution is to add a drying “aid” which typically is a product like maltodextrin or brown rice oligodextrin. The bottom line is these products are starch based and are quickly seen by the body as a sugar source. Typically the drying aid will be included at 50% of the green juice solid content.
The further issue is the greens typically have a bite to them, often described as bitter. Although this comes from some of the antioxidants found in the leaves they do not make for a great consumption experience. Hence companies add all sorts of things from natural sweeteners, fruit extracts and flavouring.
This applies to both the dehydrated form and the juice form. Simply a review of the ingredient list will reveal the culprits often coveted for other benefits besides the fact they are a sweetener.
My opinion is that Tea’d Greens is a superior way of including greens in your diet and it’s naturally caffeine free.