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Restaurant focuses on super fresh, local ingredients

By Tom Burfield | The Packer

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. — Alegría Fresh, a quarter-acre hydroponic vertical farm, is offering a handful of local restaurants and health-conscious consumers nearly four dozen kinds of greens and vegetables that grow up — not out.

The Alegría Fresh farm has more than 170 hydroponic towers that grow 10,000 plants without toxic pesticides, said managing director Erik Cutter.

The company can deliver nearly four dozen kinds of salad greens and fresh vegetables daily.

The Alegría Fresh facility is the first West Coast demonstration center that showcases what Cutter characterizes as “high-performance urban agriculture” using the Verti-Gro Inc. system.

Verti-Gro has been up and running on the East Coast — including the Epcot theme park at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. — for 16 years, he said.

The system uses 90% less water, 50% less fertilizer and 70% less land than traditional row crops, he said.

A chef himself, Cutter teaches others how to get the most out of his product, which includes nearly two dozen varieties of salad greens, several kinds of zucchini, tomatoes and chili peppers and blue turban water squash.

Cutter said he’s talked to a half a dozen area eateries about installing their own Verti-Gro systems close to or adjacent to their restaurants.

“There’s a tremendous interest in this and very little information out there about it,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to change.”

Alegria Fresh tomatoes   Erik Cutter (left), managing director of Alegría Fresh in Laguna Beach, Calif., and Frank DeLoach, executive chef at NEApolitan Pizzeria and Birreria in Laguna Beach, examine Japanese black trifele tomatoes at Alegria’s quarter-acre hydroponic vertical farm. The facility provides a wide range of products that are grown pesticide free and delivered to a handful of restaurants and individuals within hours after they are harvested.

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