PureSpinach: Ithaca’s Locally Grown, Nutritious Spinach

Commonly labeled as America’s “favorite leafy green,” spinach has always been very popular; still, many people can only access West Coast grown spinach in the supermarket or purchase the vegetable during the limited months it is available in farmers’ markets. To solve this problem, two MBA Cornell students, Serdar Mizrakci and Ziad Jarjouhi, founded PureSpinach. PureSpinach provides people with the fresh spinach through local, hydroponic growing methods.

How exactly is the spinach grown differently? With greenhouses on campus, PureSpinachgrows its spinach using hydroponics. Plants are grown on large ponds in which they float on water, leveraging a deep-water culture instead of using soil.

“Every parameter is controlled in the greenhouses, from the growing process itself to other factors such as lighting and water,” explains Mizrakci. This methodology, which was heavily researched and tested by the team and Cornell professors, creates spinach that contains more zinc, iron, and potassium. It also has lower levels of sodium in comparison to spinach grown in organic fields. The process itself is also much quicker, as the team strives to deliver its spinach to supermarkets within 24 hours of harvest.

The team has conducted several tests to compare the quality of PureSpinach to competitors on the market.. “When we did blind taste tests, we saw that 62% of people preferred PureSpinach—the consumer appeal is very high,” says Mizrakci.

PureSpinach’s ideal target market consists of individuals who value local, fresh, and pesticide-free produce. Mizracki adds, “We target the types of individuals who look more at how their products are created and what is used in the growing process—the people who tend to read the nutrition labels and list of ingredients before purchasing them.” As a result, PureSpinach currently sells at health food retailers in Ithaca such as GreenStar and is looking to expand into larger chains such as Fresh Direct, Wegmans, and Whole Foods.

Serdar and Ziad in the greenhouse

Due to the huge demand for the product, the team is currently working towards completing its proof of concept in Ithaca to improve its growing process and expand its operations. With the help of their advisors, the team is looking to expand its hydroponic growing method to an industrial scale. To do so, PureSpinach is exploring new technologies, including automated equipment to harvest, seed, and control the greenhouse environment.

Participating in this year’s eLab Program at Cornell has also allowed the team to gain valuable direction and insights. “In the startup world, it is easy to get lost. The eLab program has provided us with mentors who help us identify what is important, how we can make progress, and how we can communicate with our consumers on a day to day basis,” says Mizracki. After winning the Entrepreneurship@Cornell Summit pitch competition last November, PureSpinach’s publicity and opportunities have risen.

The team at pitching at the Entrepreneurship@Cornell Summit

With a high consumer demand that PureSpinach is striving to meet, the team is working hard to increase production and get its products to the hands of consumers without compromising the quality of the locally grown spinach.The next time you are looking for fresh spinach in the Ithaca area during harsh winter months, maybe you will not have to resort to buying spinach transported from the West Coast or wait until the next farmer’s market season.

To stay updated on PureSpinach, follow @PureSpinach on Instagram or sign up for its weekly subscription program. Any questions or inquiries can be directed at Serdar at sm2555@cornell.edu or Ziad at zgj2@cornell.edu.