It wasn’t long ago that Northern Idaho was at the forefront of industry and new technologies. Thousands flocked here from all over to make a living in the emerging timber, mining and rail industries as the area’s natural resources were in high demand all across the country. While these industries will almost certainly always be a part of the landscape, they are vastly smaller in size and operation today, and a challenge to keep young people here in good-paying careers is something communities continue to grapple with. Organizations such as CDA 2030 and Gizmo see embracing new technologies and encouraging our youth to learn about these technologies is a way to help establish a drive for our future leaders to someday create their own impactful businesses. Many of the upstart and established technological companies in the area are excited to show local kids the power of science and engineering including an up-and-comer who you might not have heard of yet but might already be impacted by.
Coeur Sustainable Resources was established in January of 2017 and operates several different platforms including Coeur Water, Coeur Solar, Coeur Power and Coeur Greens. The latter is having a direct impact on what we consume in our homes and in local restaurants.
“Tom and Drew McNabb started Coeur Greens after ample market research showed the need for a produce supplier in this area during the ‘off season,’” said Chief Operations Officer Kelly Lattin. “We are able to grow indoors all year round and provide fresh, high-quality produce for our community.”
Since the inception of Coeur Greens, the company has contracted to supply 10 different restaurants across North Idaho and just last month started selling greens in four Super One Foods locations in Hayden, Post Falls, Rathdrum and Coeur d’Alene.
Coeur Greens grows produce without soil in a hydroponic environment. The company purchased repurposed shipping containers from a company in Boston called Freight Farms (FreightFarms.com) in which all the materials from growing indoors are included. The so-called Leafy Green Machine (LGM™) can produce the same amount of greens inside a 320-square-foot unit as approximately 2 acres of farmland. The LGM™ is capable of growing lettuces, herbs and hearty greens at commercial scale in any climate or location. Container farming enables any individual, community or organization to grow fresh produce year round. “We also use very little water, less than 10 gallons per day,” said Lattin. “All of the lighting is LED and the water comes straight from the aquifer on our property, so there is complete traceability and cleanliness plus taste and nutrition.”
Coeur Greens currently has two units that produce red and green salanova butter lettuce as well as basil. The seeds are planted in Peat Moss pods and get all of their nutrients in liquid form. This way of growing gives optimal cleanliness and utilization of space while producing clean, nutritious leafy greens for the community.
“Outside of those units we also produce microgreens, which are just tiny versions of adult vegetables. They contain a lot of nutrition and powerful flavor. We grow radish microgreens, sunflower microgreens and pea shoots,” explained Lattin.
As Coeur Greens continues to grow and produce more goods year round, the company is eager to share the process with local kids. A partnership between Coeur Greens and Gizmo-CDA will bring a new curriculum to the innovation center. Having already outgrown its original space on Fourth Street, Gizmo-CDA has expanded and is now located on the campus of North Idaho where there are additional tools, curriculum and non-traditional education experiences available for all in the community. Local innovators are sharing their knowledge with these children, and Coeur Greens will also be participating by showing kids how vertical farming works and allowing them to interact with the technology that grows the foods.
“Connecting with the school system has been a goal of ours from day one, and this will be a great way to start. With this program, children will be hands on in the process from beginning to end, giving them real-world experience in math, science, technology and agriculture. There are many studies that have proven the psychological and physiological benefits to growing your own food, and we want to share those experiences with our future leaders,” said Lattin.
Coeur Sustainable Resources recently acquired 15 acres of land in Hayden at the corner of Hayden Avenue and Huetter Road. Here the company plans on building the Coeur Technology campus, which will include its other divisions—solar, energy and water. While the company currently produces 48,000 heads of organic and non-GMO lettuce per year, expansion and creation of a new indoor farming facility will allow Coeur Greens to vastly increase that number as demand increases for fresh, locally grown greens.
Coeur Power, a renewable resource company utilizing sun and wind power, plans on developing a Community Solar and Wind Farm to both power the Coeur Technology Campus in Hayden as well as sell power to those in the community interested in the use of renewable resources.
Established in 2015, Coeur Solar is a community-based company with plans to develop the local market for Solar Power Systems for schools and public facilities as it becomes more cost effective. It hopes to begin advancing on these projects during 2018 and 2019.
Coeur Water acquired approximately 120 acre foot of water rights, roughly 39 million gallons per year at the Hayden site, in one of the purest aquifers in the world—the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, which was created more than 15,000 years ago as a result of the Glacial Lake Missoula floods. The vision for Coeur Water is to supply pure water for Coeur Greens’ production purposes, develop a local brand of bottled water and ice, and the company is currently supplying water to Kootenai Electric Cooperatives Sub-Station on Huetter Road.
While the traditional growing season is shut down for months at a time here, Coeur Greens is operating 365 days a year in order to bring fresh local produce to our tables—even when we are blanketed by snow and cold. When harvested, even the roots are harvested meaning the plant is still living as it makes its way to local grocers and restaurants. Restaurants and stores partnering with local businesses such as Coeur Greens not only helps deliver fresher foods but also eliminates the environmental impacts from having to ship produce here. This partnership also helps the company reinvest in other local businesses and continue its mission to help teach the next generation about vertical farming and new technologies in agriculture.
As the area continues to adapt to new professions, new professionals continue to be eager to help mentor the next generation of leaders in hopes that they will be able to continue to be part of this wonderful community instead of seeking gainful employment in a far-off city.