AMES, Iowa — Approximately 85% of Iowa is made up of farmland, but a different type of farm is growing in Ames. It’s called Nebullam and if you live in the Ames or Des Moines metro you can get select produce delivered to you for free on the same day it’s harvested.
Nebullam didn’t start their business to sell produce; they started as a tech company. “We wanted to become the John Deere for indoor farming by selling our growing technology and licensing the software to new and expanding indoor farms,” says Nebullam Co-founder and CEO, Clayton Mooney. It was the COVID-19 pandemic that forced them to evolve to stay afloat.
They now grow, sell, and deliver red butter lettuce, microgreen varieties, and tomatoes right to your doorstep. They also grow them vertically which allows them to fit 10 times more per square foot than the average greenhouse. Not only do they save space, but they save a lot of water.
Mooney says that number is up to 98%, “We grow hydroponically, and aeroponic…with hydroponics, the roots of the plant are always submerged in water, nutrients, that’s always going through our closed-loop system with aeroponics we pressurize the water, nutrients into a really fine aerosol mist, and we hit the roots of the plant with that mist, so they have better access to oxygen so we see faster growth rates.”
Did you know that after three days, some produce loses approximately one-third of its nutrients? Mooney says, “When you pick up lettuce at a grocery store, it’s usually 10 to 11 days into its 15 or 16-day journey. Whereas in ours are same day so you get that full 16 days. But again, the nutrient factor is really key for us.”
In 10-11 days a head of lettuce travels about 1,800 miles before it gets to central Iowa. Nebullam says their produce only travels an average of 18 miles. That’s 1% of the mileage it would typically travel — a 99% savings in the amount of carbon dioxide that would usually be emitted into our atmosphere.
In the future, Nebullam plans to offer spinach varieties, kale, and arugula along with strawberries, cucumbers, and peppers. You can find their products at eatlettuce.com