Podponics in Atlanta, Georgia.

Raymond McCrea Jones/Redux

Lettuce Think Differently About Farming in Cities

PodPonics is revolutionizing how to grow greens. But this urban farming movement is only the tip of the iceberg.

Despite having a reputation for consuming a lot of junk food, Americans actually eat a lot of lettuce: 30 pounds of it each year, in fact. Behind potatoes, lettuce is the second most popular fresh vegetable.

We’d never tell you to stop eating your veggies but it’s very likely that the leafy greens you find at your local supermarket or salad bar have traveled quite the distance to end up on your plate. In fact, 90 percent of lettuce comes from California or Arizona — and unless you live on that side of the country, that’s kind of a problem.

So what’s the solution? In Atlanta, Ga., 2,000 miles away from America’s lettuce hub, local company PodPonics is growing lettuce right in the city’s backyard. In fact, the sprouting heads are located near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

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You’d think Atlanta’s sweltering heat, heavy traffic and densely populated sprawl wouldn’t be optimal for fresh greens, but the company is proving that notion wrong. Thanks to the incredible technology of hydroponics, PodPonics is growing (pesticide-and-fertilizer free!) lettuce all year round.

We’ve previously mentioned the nifty technology of hydroponics (and its fishy cousin aquaponics). The beauty of this growing method is that it requires no sunlight, arable land or soil. This means it can be set up just about anywhere — from basements to fish tanks. As you can see in the video below, PodPonics grows their greens in recycled railroad shipping containers.

PodPonics

YouTube

The company told NationSwell that inside each of these containers — or “pods” — is a controlled environment (consisting of patented PVC-pipe hydroponic systems, fluorescent lights, virtual systems that control the temperature and nutrients) that allows the plants to flourish year round.

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Impressively, the company said that each pod produces the equivalent of more than an acre of crops. They also have a turnover of crops 26 times a year, compared to traditional farms that have four crop turns a year.

Since its launch in 2010, PodPonics has already expanded to hundreds of local grocery stores. Hydroponics is a serious contender for the future of farming, and it’s coming at an important time for drought-weary states in the American Southwest (yes, such as California and Arizona). While it can be expensive to set up, it pays off in dividends in the long run. It’s been said that hydroponic systems use only around 10 percent of the water used for soil-based crops. Companies like PodPonics are proving that we can grow fresh, sustainable crops anywhere — regardless of the weather.

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Lorraine Chow is a freelance writer and reporter from Los Angeles, California. She previously worked for the New York Post's Page Six.