An entrepreneur’s dream often begins with a problem. For Zain Shauk, it was wilted lettuce. Shauk grew up in Santa Monica, California, where the greens were always greener. When he moved to Houston in 2010, he found the packaged, pre-washed produce lacking. “I’d get home and I’d open the container and it was already steamy and slimy, and I’d say, ‘What gives?’”
The answer to the problem of steamy, slimy greens, he realized, was straightforward: to deliver fresher produce, it had to be grown closer to the customers. That simple solution inspired the launch of Dream Harvest, a company that uses hydroponics and technique known as vertical farming to grow lettuce, kale, herbs, and baby greens inside a low-slung industrial building in southwest Houston. Today, Dream Harvest, founded in 2015, delivers fresh produce to 46 Whole Foods locations in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas, as well as Sweetgreen stores across Texas.
More growth is on the way. The company recently raised a $50 million investment from the private equity firm Orion Energy Partners, which has offices in New York and Houston. The capital will fund a new, 100,000-square-foot growing facility in Southwest Houston and create 40 new jobs, more than doubling the workforce of 26.
The expansion is expected to be completed in about a year, and Shauk sees an open field to expand further. The company’s primary competition comes from far-flung states, where nearly all leafy greens are grown outdoors. As the planet warms, Shauk said, traditional farming will be increasingly challenged by drought and extreme weather.
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