Growing Juneau’s Food Security

October 6, 2021

Juneau Greens
Lettuce growing inside the Juneau Greens hydroponic farm. Photo courtesy of Eran Hood.

In early 2017, John Krapek was living in Juneau and had just completed a Master’s Degree in Forest Ecology from UAF. He was studying the decline of yellow cedar populations in Southeast Alaska. During his time in Juneau, John had noticed that, unlike seafood, locally grown produce was in short supply. This realization, and John’s desire to develop a career that combined his interests in botany and plant ecology, led him to connect with entrepreneur Trevor Kirchoff, who was growing herbs and selling them to local supermarkets. In July, 2017 the pair founded Juneau Greens, a hydroponic farm in the Mendenhall Valley, with the goal of providing healthy produce to local supermarkets.

Hydroponic farming is ideally suited to Juneau because the indoor setting provides the ability to grow produce year-round and the energy-intensive operation is powered by electricity from Juneau’s sustainable hydropower network. Since 2017, Juneau Greens’ growing operation has expanded from basil to leafy greens, and their inventory now includes kale and multiple varieties of lettuce. The Juneau Greens business model has grown as well. At its inception, the core business was selling produce to supermarkets, however local chefs quickly took note of Juneau Greens’ fresh offerings and began buying produce directly from Krapek and Kirchoff. More recently, Juneau Greens has expanded into a direct-to-consumer community  supported agriculture, or CSA, project by offering a weekly “greens box” subscription to Juneau residents.

Looking ahead, Krapek sees a bright future for Juneau Greens and hydroponic agriculture in Alaska. Kirchoff recently moved to Anchorage to found Anchorage Greens, a partner business to Juneau Greens. In Juneau, demand for fresh produce is outpacing Juneau Greens’ growing capacity despite the fact that Krapek has brought on two full-time employees to the business. Feeling the pinch from both from national supermarket chains, who have mandates to purchase locally produced produce, and Juneau residents who are facing a months-long waiting list for a subscription to Juneau Greens’ CSA greens box program, Krapek is looking for a new warehouse in Juneau to expand his production capacity. Through the growth of his business, Krapek has maintained his relationship with the UA system by service as an adjunct instructor at the University of Alaska Southeast teaching Forest Ecology and helping to inspire the next generation of local plant enthusiasts.