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Laying the groundwork

Lēf Farms takes pride in growing fresh, healthy salad greens that use sustainable, environmentally friendly practices and delivering the fresh produce to Northeast customers within 24 hours of harvest. So when the Louden, New Hampshire-based company expanded its hydroponic greenhouse, it was committed to using only the highest quality materials and equipment that would meet and exceed food safety regulations. That’s why lēf Farms turned to Sika Corporation for a chemical-resistant, durable, slip-resistant floor that could withstand its advanced climate-controlled greenhouse facility.

Founded in 2015, lēf Farms produces delicate baby salad greens for grocers, retailers, restaurants, schools, hospitals and consumers across the Northeast. Its hydroponic greenhouse plants, grows and harvests a variety of greens that are bagged into three mixes. The Smooth mix features a mild combination of leaf lettuce, pac choi, mizuna and oakleaf. The Spice mix blends arugula, mustard, Cressida, mizuna and leaf lettuce. And the Balance mix contains red and green kale.

Lēf Farms uses automated, eco-friendly methods to produce its greens. For example, it doesn’t use pesticides or GMO seeds. Its hydroponic growing system uses recycled water and nutrients, reducing waste and runoff. And because its highly automated system doesn’t use chemicals and can plant, grow, harvest and bag the greens with little or no human labor, lēf Farms doesn’t have to prewash the greens or rinse them in chlorine.

When Lēf Farms decided to expand its greenhouse facility in 2016, it chose to go with the Sikafloor PurCem polyurethane flooring system. This ultra-heavy-duty performance flooring system is smooth, durable and easily cleanable, complying with FDA Food Code 2009 and FSMA. It also provides slip-resistant textures for wet surfaces — an important feature because the greenhouse has equipment that must be washed down at the end of each shift to maintain a hygienic food processing environment.

“Our goal was to build and create a floor that was crack resistant, which would withstand any contaminants,” says Russ Elkins, facilities manager at Pleasant View Gardens, Inc., the sister company of lēf Farms.

Rowley, Massachusetts-based Wells Restoration, a Sikafloor installer, installed the Sikafloor PurCem system in July 2016. Because the greens are harvested in a cold room to keep them fresh and crisp, Wells Restoration used polyurethane cement technology, which is less sensitive to temperature changes. “This floor was going into an area that was basically a big cooler with a temperature of 35°F, so I knew the urethane cement would best meet these environmental conditions,” says Scott Wells, president of Wells Restoration.

Wells steel-shot blasted the concrete surface to provide the recommended profile for a proper mechanical bond of the flooring materials. It then patched saw-cuts and hairline cracks with Sikafloor 265 Flexible Epoxy. Wells also used Sikafloor 160 Epoxy Mortar System to address the height of each drain body. This ensured that water would properly flow into drains after the new floor was installed. The crew then mixed, applied and broadcasted the Sikafloor 22NA PurCem.

After applying the Sikafloor 22NA at about ¼-in. thick, Wells sealed the floor with Sikafloor 510 Polyaspartic Urethane, which provides chemical resistance and an aesthetic finish. Lēf Farms chose to seal the floor in red to differentiate the packaging area from the storage area.

Lēf Farms is pleased with its new flooring, especially because it’s simple to maintain, durable and slip resistant. “The fact that it is so easy to clean means we can save time, water, energy and resources,” says DJ Grandmaison, sales and marketing manager at lēf Farms. “It is holding up extremely well even though there has been a lot of traffic.”

“The floor is so much more cleanable than other flooring materials,” says Bob LaDue, vice president and COO of lēf Farms. “Another nice feature is that they were able to make things flush with the drains, so everything flushes nicely and dries quickly.”

Lēf Farms plans to invest in Sikafloor PurCem floor systems again as the company expands. “The floor is an easy place for people to skimp on, but we went the other way,” LaDue says. “It is a step above our competitors, and we are very proud of it. We hope to expand in the future, and I assume we would continue on with this flooring.”


Sika Corporation