North Country Growers breaks ground on greenhouse project

A new access road is under construction for North Country Growers commercial hydroponic greenhouse project off the East Milan Road. (BARBARA TETREAULT PHOTO)

BERLIN — Site work is underway for North Country Growers commercial hydroponic greenhouse project off the East Milan Road. AB Excavating of Lancaster has been working on the 170-acre site for several weeks and a new access road is clearly under construction.

“I am very happy,” said Dr. Richard Rosen, president of NCG, when asked last week about breaking ground on the project after more than four years of work. He said he hopes to have the two ten-acre greenhouses in operation next year.

Once complete, the $58 million project will grow tomatoes and lettuce in self-contained, sustainable growing greenhouses. Rainwater collected off the roof and snow melt will be recycled for irrigation. Waste heat is recycled to heat greenhouses, and the project will use the C02 emissions to generate power. A generation plant would tap into the natural gas pipeline, producing an estimated 8.8 megawatts of electrical power primarily to be used by the facility.

Rosen said he expects to grow 15 million heads of lettuce and the other 8 million pounds of tomatoes annually at the two greenhouses. He said the project will employ about 80 people and promised the jobs will be good-paying with excellent benefits.

It has been a long process to get to ground-breaking, requiring state legislation to allow NCG to enter into a 20 year payment-in-lieu-of- tax agreement with the city. That agreement allows for lower payments in the beginning while the site is being developed and the payment increases to $875,000 in the latter years.

The site was owned by the city and NCG went through nine options on the land before NCG finally purchased it for $645,000 last year. Rosen said the COVID pandemic has also posed some challenges since much of the equipment and expertise comes from Europe and the Netherland.

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