Green Sense Farms co-founder Robert Colangelo is known for his leadership skills, enthusiasm, positive attitude, innovation, curiosity and expertise. Colangelo is the co-founder of the largest commercial indoor vertical farm in the United States.
Located in Portage, Green Sense Farms has 30,000- square-feet of leased space at the Ameriplex complex. This initiative has earned Colangelo a Fellow Award and induction into the Northwest Indiana Society of Innovators.
“We have built a room within a room so when you go into our warehouse we have built a large room out of cooler panels so that we can control the climate inside that inner room,” Colangelo says. “We have broken that room into two grow rooms so we can have two different climates. In that room we have created the perfect conditions. The plants get the perfect amount and precise amount of water, light, nutrients, temperature and humidity so that they grow consistently year round.”
At Green Sense Farms plants are grown in a soil-less media.
“We use coconut coir, that is the ground husk of a coconut, and we recycle that coconut coir when we are done,” Colangelo says. “It provides a sub-stream for the seeds to grown in and for the roots to form and to communicate with the nutrients. So it is inert material that doesn’t provide any chemical reaction and it allows the water and the nutrients to flow easily into the plant roots.”
Green Sense Farms grows micro greens, baby greens, culinary herbs and gourmet lettuces.
What Colangelo finds most satisfying about his career is “making customers happy and innovating to develop new ways to grow indoors and harvesting plants in February when its 40-below zero outside.”
Colangelo received both his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Earth Science from Northeastern Illinois University. A public speaker, Colangelo has also written several books.
His life’s work began with an internship at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and progressed with jobs at Argonne National Laboratory, Woodward Clyde Consulting, Donohue Consulting and American Colloid Company.
“I then went on my own and started more than 10 environmental organizations,” Colangelo says. Colangelo credits several mentors with positively impacting his life.
“Mr. Kim, a Martial Arts Master, trained me in yoga, meditation and martial arts and taught me how to persevere regardless of the challenges that face you,” Colangelo says. “Dr. Roger Charlier, professor, author and freedom fighter in the Belgium underground during WWII and a marine biologist and professor, inspired me to love the environment and have an appreciation for nature's balance; also my mother for giving me her unconditional love.”
With his personal and business philosophy “take on projects that make the world a better place to live, make a living doing it and have fun,” Colangelo’s goals are to build a brand that is internationally known and locally grown by building a network of indoor vertical farms located at institutional campuses where a large number of meals are sold daily and at perishable food distribution centers.
Colangelo also founded and hosts the nationally syndicated weekly radio show Green Sense which features innovators, entrepreneurs, academics, elected officials and policy makers “that are making the world a better place to live through the implantation of their sustainable ideas.”
Colleagues describe him as an enthusiastic leader and expert in his field who possesses a positive attitude.Dr. Gene Giacomelli, Professor and Director Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at the University of Arizona, has known Colangelo for two years.
A researcher and educator Dr. Giacomelli’s focus is on controlled environment agriculture hydroponic food production systems.
“We met in a phone conversation where I learned of his plan to begin an artificially- lighted indoor facility for growing leafy green crops,” Dr. Giacomelli says. “At the time he was in need of someone to respond to his plans/questions for the new production facility, and I offered my experiences.”
Dr. Giacomelli says he is impressed with Colangelo’s “enthusiasm for modern technology-based farming to produce food to meet the societal demands; his past successful business experiences in raising capital and putting it to work; and, his expertise in marketing.”
“This combination offers good potential for success,” Dr. Giacomelli says.
“The ability of he and his team to quickly get the startup facility into production, and to address the critical factors for successful production, while regularly including design improvements to enhance production and production quality are impressive,” Dr. Giacomelli says.
Scott Buck MD, and medical director of Northwest Indiana Eye & Laser Center in Valparaiso, has known Colangelo for about 18 months as a friend and fellow Northwest Indiana businessman.
“His infectious entrepreneurial spirit is great to be around,” Dr. Buck says. “He has a very positive can-do attitude, a wealth of life experiences from which to draw and I learn something new every time I'm with him.”
Dr. Buck sees an endless curiosity about everything and everyone in Colangelo's world.
“He truly wants to make a difference in the world,” Dr. Buck says. “Between his background in rehabilitation of industrially blighted areas world-wide and his expertise in attainable, non-subsidized, self-sustaining green technologies, I truly believe he will. I see Robert as the tip of the sword in a wave of new, healthy, sustainable farming that provides consistent, high quality crops with minimal ecological impact - something places like California need yesterday.”
Camilo Penalosa, who has known Colangelo three years during the development of Green Sense Farms, admires his enthusiasm, entrepreneurial skill and world vision for taking care of earth.
“He is a leader, convinced of his project, always willing to learn and open to suggestions,” Penalosa says. “I admire him for getting Green Sense off the ground, making it a reality regardless of the hurdles he finds ahead.”
Colangelo’s concern for the world includes volunteering in his community. Colangelo is on the board of the Portage Economic Development Corporation and he serves as a mentor at the University of Chicago Harris School for Public Policy.
Green Sense Farms hosts quarterly Farm-to-Table dinners featuring fresh leafy greens he grows at each course, raising awareness about healthy eating and donating a portion of the proceeds to local charities.
“We also give surplus produce grown at the farm to the Food Bank,” Colangelo says.
Colangelo believes in the importance of his work and involvement.
“With a growing population we need to conserve resources and implement technology that makes society more sustainable or we will have more disease, starvation and wars,” Colangelo says. “The best way to make a better world is for each of us to make a better home and community.”
Among his proudest accomplishments, Colangelo counts his family, with his wife and three children, and having excellent partners and investors, a great staff and having the opportunity to be at the leading edge of a new emerging market.
Green Sense Farms, with 30,000- square-feet of leased space at the Ameriplex complex, is the largest commercial indoor vertical farm in the United States.
Colangelo believes that a growing world population will need to conserve resources and implement technology to make society more sustainable. The alternative is more disease, starvation and wars.
Green Sense Farms' recent expansion will create a vertical farm in China.