OWATONNA, Minn. — If all goes according to plan, Bushel Boy, the Owatonna-based producer of hydroponic tomatoes, will be expanding into Iowa in the very near future.

“We’re in negotiations with municipal officials from Mason City, Iowa,” said Steve Irland, president of Bushel Boy.

The company, which started in Owatonna in 1990, is looking to acquire 80 acres in Mason City. Currently, Bushel Boy has 40 acres in Owatonna, 28 of which it uses for production of its water-grown tomatoes.

However, not all 80 acres of the Iowa acquisition would be put into production immediately, Irland said. The plans are for three separate 17-acre facilities, with ground broken for the first one in late summer this year with completion of that facility toward the end of summer 2020, Irland said.

The future phases are to be determined, he said.

Bushel Boy has been looking for expansion opportunities, and, in fact, expanded twice in Owatonna within the past five years — a 4-acre expansion in 2015 and another 4-acre expansion in 2016. The company also broke ground on a 4½-acre expansion in Owatonna just this week, Irland said. When that expansion is completed, slated for November of this year, the Owatonna facility will have 32½ acres used for production.

The initial start-up costs for the Mason City project will run about $35 million, Irland said. The cost for the 4½-acre expansion in Owatonna will be about $10 million.

As for the choice of Mason City, it was not the only area that Bushel Boy considered.

“We sought out a number of different opportunities,” Irland said, adding that the Mason City opportunity came together with the availability of the land, infrastructure and utilities needed to produce the Bushel Boy product.

“We utilize a lot of technology,” he said. “It’s a blending of art and science.”

Mason City was, Irland said, “the most attractive option.”

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