lettuce in greenhouse
Fresh Produce Initiative

What is Hydroponic Farming

Hydroponic greenhouse farming is a developing industry, and Wendy’s is proud to be a part of it. Hydroponic farming is a version of advanced technology greenhouse farming where plants are grown in a nutrient solution instead of soil. It is a process that provides exceptional quality and consistent taste all year long.


The main advantage of hydroponic farming versus field farming is the element of environmental control. Hydroponic greenhouses have control over light, temperature, humidity and airflow. The control over these elements creates an environment that produces consistent quality in tomatoes all year long. Greenhouse farming also uses less water, land and fertilizer than field farming, eliminates runoff and uses natural Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods to make pesticides a last resort. Greenhouses also provide, by design, an indoor, temperature-controlled work environment.


In 2018, Wendy’s started featuring hydroponic vine-ripened tomatoes in our salads, chicken sandwiches and hamburgers. By 2019, every single tomato served in our U.S. and Canadian restaurants was sourced by hydroponic greenhouses from North America. Innovations like this are how Wendy’s stands alongside long-established commitments to drive growth in quality, sustainability and responsible sourcing.


Hydroponic Tomato Life Cycle illustration


What are the Advantages of Hydroponic Farming?

At Wendy’s, our customers expect consistency in our products all year long. But tomatoes, by nature, are a delicate fruit that aren’t easy to grow consistently. They need water—but not too much. They need heat and sunlight—but it must be at the right time and the right amount. They need protection from pests and disease. Even under good conditions in the fields, tomatoes can still have a hard time meeting our strict quality requirements.


That’s why we decided that our customers deserve better. We want every customer to have a positive experience every time they come to Wendy’s. It was time to take this tomato business by the horns—or in our case, the stems. It was time to innovate. By 2019, every restaurant in the U.S. and Canada was serving 100% hydroponic greenhouse-grown tomatoes. To fully understand our decision, take a look at the three main advantages of hydroponic farming: quality assurance, sustainability and social responsibility.

Quality Assurance

Hydroponic greenhouses have control over environmental elements such as amount of wind the tomatoes are exposed to, the temperature in the greenhouse and the amount of water the tomatoes receive. With this control, tomatoes can be grown with consistent quality all year long no matter the season.


Hydroponic farming is a sustainable process in both growing and packaging. The hydroponic farming process uses fertilizer, Integrated Pest Management instead of pesticides and it reuses water. Tomato packaging is developed to maximize shelf life while minimizing materials. The size and shape of the packaging also increases the number of units per pallet, per skid and per truckload.

Social Responsibility

At Wendy’s, we are committed to Treating People With Respect and Doing The Right Thing, and we hold our suppliers to those same values. Sure, greenhouse-grown tomatoes offer exceptional quality and taste all year long, but the greenhouses they grow in also provide an indoor, temperature-controlled working environment.

Canada Greenhouse-Grown Lettuce

Heart and Lettuce leaf illustration

As part of our ongoing commitment to serving the best and most fresh, in 2020, we expanded our greenhouse-grown fresh produce portfolio by introducing Canadian greenhouse-grown lettuce in our salads and sandwiches throughout Canada. In fact, Wendy’s is the first national brand in the Canadian QSR industry to serve greenhouse-grown lettuce in every restaurant across the country. This lettuce line-up not only tastes great, but is also grown without the use of chemical pesticides, among other benefits.


Our greenhouse-grown lettuce is another example of Wendy’s many commitments under our corporate responsibility platform, Good Done Right. We’re all about serving up better food while reducing our environmental footprint, doing right by our people and bringing you along on our journey.