Month: August 2021

Wilder Fields Unveils Key Component For One Of World’s Largest Vertical Farms

Wilder Fields unveils key component for one of world’s largest vertical farms now under construction in a vacant Super Target in Calumet City
Unique system housed in 22 cleanrooms to yield 25 million plants annually

Calumet City, Ill., August 11, 2021— Today at Wilder Fields, Thaddeus Jones, mayor, City of Calumet City, joined Jake Counne, founder and CEO, Wilder Fields, to officially unveil a proprietary automation system for the indoor vertical farm now under construction in a 135,000-square-foot, vacant Super Target in the city. Using Wilder Fields’ technology, this innovative venture will be one of the world’s largest commercial vertical farms, comprising a fully controlled and automated indoor environment.

When phase one construction is completed in first-quarter 2022, the company will safely grow and harvest dozens of full-flavored, pesticide-free varieties of leafy greens, eventually reaching a yield of up to 25 million plants annually.

“Calumet City is excited to join Wilder Fields in bringing this exciting project to our community,” said Mayor Jones. “Wilder Fields is changing indoor farming for years to come, and I look forward to its success and growth. We are building a world-class community and Wilder Fields is at the head of the pack in helping Calumet City become the leader in world- class businesses that add value to the lives of our residents.”

“Calumet City gets it,” added Counne. “We collaborated for two years before completing the infrastructure and building out the farm. The city has supported us as we wrote the playbook for transforming vacant big-box structures into high-tech farms. Calumet City shares our vision of the positive impact Wilder Fields can have, not only on this community but also on the future of sustainable indoor agriculture.”

Jones and Counne used a giant switch to light up a demonstration model of Wilder Fields’ 20-foot tall grow towers. These proprietary towers will be housed in 22 cleanrooms— each measuring 105,000 cubic feet and containing four towers—that form the basis of Wilder Fields’ system, which employs lean manufacturing principles that disrupt and improve upon previous designs to manage the costs that have bedeviled some attempts at large-scale indoor farming.

Jake Counne Wilder Fields
Jake Counne, founder and CEO, Wilder Fields, leads tour of indoor
vertical farm technology.

In keeping with its commitment to social responsibility, Wilder Fields will use clean energy to power its farm and make efficient use of water purchased from Calumet City.

“Wilder Fields’ dedication to the environment and community goes beyond repurposing buildings,” said Henry Pierce, ComEd senior economic development specialist. “By taking advantage of the ComEd Energy Efficiency program, Wilder Fields saves energy and money that can be used to focus on what matters—sustainably growing food and creating jobs for the community.”

“Wilder Fields did not require re-piping or any other special accommodations,” explained Gerry Surufka, deputy water commissioner for Calumet City. “And thanks to the efficiency of the company’s system, which uses small drips of precisely measured water, we do not anticipate any need to increase the water supply to this former Super Target.” Due to its unique use of technological breakthroughs, Wilder Fields requires 95 percent less water than traditional farming methods.

The Calumet City location is the first commercial-scale Wilder Fields operation, a project currently valued at an estimated $50 million, according to Counne. By using artificial intelligence to apply principles of machine learning to farming, Counne and his visionary team built a system that continually monitors the plants’ health and growing environment, supplying light, water and nutrients as needed while reducing human contact.

“I consider our Wilder Fields team to be true problem-solvers,” said Counne, who focuses on rehabilitating abandoned big-box stores to help revitalize the communities where they are situated. “We take nothing for granted and continue to challenge many of the accepted ways of building and running a vertical farm. We already have engineered some incredibly cost-effective and elegant solutions for some very expensive problems.”

Even as the Calumet City location ramps up to full capacity, Wilder Fields currently produces its tantalizing array of flavorful greens on a smaller scale, available at Dom’s Kitchen & Market and at Local Markets Food in Bucktown.

By early 2022, its produce will be sold at supermarkets and served at restaurants within a 100-mile radius, eliminating the long-distance hauling that affects freshness and curtails shelf life, and reducing Wilder Fields’ carbon footprint. An onsite retail store also will give Calumet City residents and others nearby access to fresh, healthy produce.

For more information, visit


Photos by Marc Monaghan.

Center of Excellence For Indoor Agriculture Announces Best In Class Award Winners

A HUGE congrats to the Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture “Best In Class” Award winners in the following categories:

Urban Crop Solutions – Best Indoor Production System (Systems starting between $250k-$500k)

Intelligent Growth Solutions – Best Indoor Production System (Systems starting $500k and up)

GE Current – Best Overall Indoor Farm Light Fixture

Emphasis was given to sustainable farms and equipment manufacturers that efficiently use resources such as land, energy, labor and water to produce the highest yields at an affordable price in indoor farm settings.

Read more about the winners here:

As part of the award announcement, the COE and Indoor Ag-Con hosted the  Indoor Ag-Conversations webinar, The Importance of Operations Metrics In Building Sustainable Farms.

Moderated by Dr Eric W. Stein, PH.D., Executive Director of the Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture and Associate Professor of Business at Penn State the panel included:

David Farquhar, CEO, Intelligent Growth Solutions
Maarten Vandecruys, Co-Founder & CTO, Urban Crop Solutions
Daniel Lee, National Sales Manager, Horticulture, GE Current, A Daintree Company
Chris Higgins, President & Co-Founder, HortAmericas
Andew Howell, Vice President of Sustainable Food & Agriculture, Ceres Partners

The discussion covered a number of areas of interest, including

-How to build sustainable Triple Bottom Line farm operations
-The importance of operations management, benchmarking, and continuous improvement to support sustainable indoor farming
-The importance of recognizing operations excellence, the purpose of Best in Class awards and their role in promoting farm metrics
-How metrics can contribute to future investment in indoor ag
-Ways to build indoor farms that can achieve long-term sustainable economic results while supporting job creation, workforce development and environmental goals.
-And much more!

Learn more and access the recording here.

Q & A With The Villages Grown Executive Director Jennifer Waxman

 Creating A Local Food System With A Community-Centric Approach 

Indoor Ag-Con is excited to welcome The Villages Grown Executive Director Jennifer Waxman to our conference speaker roster for the October 4-5, 2021 edition at the Hilton Orlando.

The innovative growing complex for The Villages — the active adult retirement community located in Central Florida — The Villages Grown encompasses cutting-edge greenhouses, a state-of-the-art processing facility and delivery fleet. But that’s only part of the incredible story.

As Executive Director, Jennifer is the visionary behind the development of the successful business and educational model for The Villages Grown. We had the chance to talk to Jennifer to learn more about her community-centered approach, expanding markets, wellness programs, initiatives and more.

1 – The Villages is a massive retirement community; how many actual mouths does The Villages Grown feed (size of customer base)?

We could feed the 165,000+ residents multiple times a day with a full and colorful plate of whole foods. Within our community, we span over 3 counties and growing. We not only feed our residents, of which we call ‘The Villagers’, but also  thousands of employees. You can find our product in our restaurant chains, independent restaurants, our own retail units, Publix locations, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and the like.The Villages Grown

There is a wonderful sense of pride from both The Villagers and the team members who work throughout the community within The Villages Grown. We have created a true Local Food System with a community-centric approach. We are very proud to serve first as an amenity to The Villages and the vibrant community of which we serve. Our community is active and engaged with what we are doing and ready to learn. This is a community of wellness where people are living their best lives and are ‘fueled by The Villages Grown’. In fact, The Villages is home to the largest aging-in-place demographic in the world. We are going to put our money where our mouth is, literally, by embarking on a Health Impact Study to demonstrate that  eating this way, from our Local Food System, is beneficial to one’s health and wellbeing.

How do we do it? The Villages Grown is a multi-phased CEA production operation positioned on a total of 85 acres. Currently, we are on Phase 1 (of 4 phases) which covers a 9-acre footprint. Phase I has been in production for over a year and will produce over 7.5 million pounds of a diversified produce product mix. This mix includes all the core items one needs to live a healthy, food-as-medicine, lifestyle,including year-round: Heirloom Tomatoes, Microgreens, Lettuces, Petite Greens, Herbs and Specialty Items.

2.As a follow-up,  we were interested to read the exciting news that The Villages Grown is expanding its market beyond the town center and mobile trucks you’ve been selling through, to now sell your produce at Publix. Is this part of a larger plan to reach customers outside of the Villages?

The Villages Grown Executive Director Jennifer Waxman to Speak At Indoor Ag-Con 2021We have already expanded beyond The Villages community and within Central Florida, the Gulf Coast and are entering South Florida mid-August! We will expand our Publix footprint, along with other retailers of which we have already entered (or are soon to enter) but have also become a Florida supplier for four large National Restaurant Groups, as well as into the Cruise Lines and Theme Parks through our distribution partners.

We have at least 3 more buildout Phases to follow as we expand our operations throughout our total acreage, thus allowing us to literally ‘Feed Florida, From Florida’. I think we also take a different approach, and we have a strong and impactful narrative. We grow for nutrients first and foremost, taste naturally follows and we’ve already cracked the code on volume. Most CEAs grow for volume, taste may somewhat be part of the equation, but nutrients rarely are.The Villages Grown

This message is getting out about our model and position as the largest CEA in Florida, so we are getting calls from the Big Dogs on a weekly basis. These are exciting times, but a long time in the making! We dedicated almost two years to strategic planning and preselling before we ever broke ground. My consulting team was able to leverage our clients, past strategies, and reputations from our previous worlds to make this happen.

3 – Jennifer, as a woman in what many would define as a male-dominated industry, how have you navigated your way and how would you advise young women seeking to enter the industry?

I love this question and have been asked this a lot since entering the agricultural industry back in 2000. Agriculture has been looked at as a heavy lifting, labor-intensive industry coupled with a ‘Good Ole Boy’ network. Well, welcome to CEA! You just need drive, determination, confidence, experience and – BRAINS! The industry is ever emerging and innovating and a lot of this ebb and flow is powered by amazing female leaders in every sector of CEA (just look at your speakers – well done!).

The Villages GrownI am fortunate to be surrounded by powerful female peers in CEA. In fact, we have created a CEA alliance in Florida. I am happy that this alliance includes 4 of the top female CEOs in the business (*one is speaking at your conference as well). We don’t see each other as competition, we work alongside of each other and share Best Practices – and sometimes accounts. On a side note, most of my team is female dominated and this is not by design, but by merit. They are fierce yet nurturing, which is a must in agriculture.

4 – What kind of technology is being employed in terms of your approach to IPM, supplemental lighting and data capture?

We like to say we use ‘age-old agricultural practices coupled with new-age technology.’ As a CEA industry veteran, I am not sold on going simply high-tech – not in the least. It should be about growing a nutrient-dense, tasty, safe, quality product and not all the bells and whistles — which is why so many CEA companies have not, and may never, achieve a ROI.

We use a full IPM strategy, including worker bees that exist in Mother Nature and are crucial for growing the most nutrient-dense, strong plants. We are in Florida, and we use nature’s sunshine as a tool. We supplement when needed using both LED and HPS lighting. We have our facility on full AI with an advanced control system. We capture our data through our control system along with 3 other types of software. Our goal is to use that data to continually improve our SOPs and methodologies.

5 – Indoor Ag Con is all about people and given the built-in, leisurely and social nature of The Villages, tell us how you are bringing members of the community together (i.e., Farmer’s Markets, classes and onsite tours, etc.)?

We are a community-based model of which we have created a true Local Food System. We are not only the grower, but we aggregate from our network of both local family farms, as well as artisans who use our product in their finished products. This approach makes us stand out and is simply the right thing to do. This has garnered a lot of attention, even globally, but especially in The Villages.The Villages Grown

We use a multi-media approach for engagement. I can reach  100 to 150,000 Villagers at a time – live at events and/or broadcasted. We also utilize TV, radio, and print programming to educate. We believe that you can’t create a Local Food System without education at the forefront. We have a demonstration kitchen launching soon which is set up like a talk show of which we will have satellite programming distributed to members within and outside of the community as well as with our clients and partners. We are not open to the public due to our Global GAP Certification, but we give our network a ‘taste of The Villages Grown’ through virtual tours.

I am a plant-based cook, and several members of our team are as well, so we also deliver Medical Culinary Wellness programs and initiatives. We also train our medical networks for the Practitioner to the Patient on a Food-as-Medicine lifestyle approach. Quite frankly, it’s a dream, but it isn’t an overnight success. This model has been created over two decades in the agricultural and wellness industry.

My life’s work has been solidified by surrounding myself with innovators who are smarter than me. My team is amazing!


Jennifer Waxman will be joining our “Expansion” panel  from 10:30 am – 11:20 am on Tuesday, October 5 during the October 4-5, 2021 edition of Indoor Ag-Con at the Hilton Orlando.



“Beyond Standard” AgriNomix LLC Is North America’s Premier Cultivation Systems Provider

Indoor Ag-Con 2021 ExhibitoAgrinomix At Indoor Ag-Con 2021r AgriNomix provides its clients with turn-key facility solutions including design and development assistance, manual to fully automated cultivation systems, germination chambers and stand-alone production equipment to “one-of-a-kind” customized production lines.

AgriNomix prides itself on providing automation solutions to traditional greenhouse and nursery operations, in addition to providing expertise in greenhouse systems and process flow to small, medium and large scale indoor, controlled environment agriculture such as vertical farming.

About AgriNomix LLC

We have been providing Automation and Expert Service to North America’s Horticulture Industry Since 1994. As a systems integrator, we utilize products from over a dozen different leading manufacturers to provide customized solutions for each individual client. We also manufacture many of our own products at our production facility in Oberlin, Ohio. We back these products with 24-hour / 7-day a week technical support and service, and maintain a multi-million-dollar machine and spare parts inventory.

AgriNomix is continually striving to provide its clients with Exceptional Customer Service, and works beyond standard industry expectations to help its customers realize and bring their visions to life:

For more information about AgriNomix and its greenhouse system offerings and solutions, contact Doug Laubenstein at or visit us on our website\.

Next Gen GE Current Top Light Now Available Through Hort Americas

The next generation of the GE Current Top Light —  the L1000 —  is now available through Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor Hort Americas.

True 1:1 replacement for legacy 1000W HPS fixtures.

High performance: PPF of up to 2350 µmol/s.

Assembled with pride in Hendersonville, NC, USA

Be sure to stop by the Hort Americas booth — 1000 – during the October 4-5, 2021 edition of Indoor Ag-Con at the Hilton Orlando to see this design and many others!

Growers see real results with Evofactor® for nutrient management

Maximizing nutrient efficiency for growers is top of mind for Texas-based start-up and Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor  Verano365, who has developed a nutrient adjuvant, Evofactor®.

The liquid fertilizer enhancer is formulated with Verano365’s proprietary technology, OpusMAX®, a carrier that creates supramolecular structures of the active ingredients in fertilizers, ultimately delivering highly concentrated nutrients to the plant.

Growers who adopt Evofactor have the flexibility to choose the outcome that’s most valuable to their operation: either a reduction in the amount of applied fertilizer to yield plants of equitable size and health to what they’re producing today; or, increased biomass in crops that receive the same fertilizer rate they’re using currently. Both outcomes are attributed to the nutrient localization that Evofactor facilitates.

Herbert Rabalais, president of Verano365 shared, “We’ve been fortunate to work with a number of growers across the U.S., and we’re seeing positive results with Evofactor regardless of the growing method. We’ve trialed it in seed production, plug production, with cuttings, and in hydroponics, and we see great performance across all techniques.”

What kind of results are growers seeing with Evofactor?

 Enhanced aerial plant mass
 Improved wet and dry weights
 Increased nutrient assimilation
 Healthier root development

One of the most frequent questions growers ask is, “Will this be difficult to incorporate into my current operation?” The answer? Evofactor is designed to be easy-to-use, and it can be added directly into a grower’s fertilizer stock tank at the recommended use rates, applied as part of a regular fertilization program. The product is compatible with almost all fertigation systems, meaning there’s no special equipment necessary or additional labor requirements.

Evofactor is registered in all 50 states across the U.S.  Learn more by stopping by the Verano365 booth — 1003 – during the October 4-5, 2021 edition of Indoor Ag-Con at the Hilton Orlando  or contacting

Tour An IGS Vertical Farm

Vertical farming offers a progressive, modern way to complement traditional farming methods so that the planet can sustain an ever-increasing demand for food. As farmers and other growers put greater emphasis on sustainable food security and surety of supply chain, vertical farming is being recognised as an increasingly valuable way to diversify and drive efficiency.

Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor IGS’ innovative approach has sustainability and environmental consideration at its core. The goal is to reduce the amount of energy required, providing economic and productivity benefits by reducing power and labour costs whilst growing consistently high-quality produce to demand at the point of consumption.

The precision-controlled IGS system has been designed specifically to address some of the core challenges facing the vertical farming sector including economic viability and energy consumption. This is widely considered as a fundamental component in overcoming the global food security challenges we face in a changing climate with a growing population.

At IGS, we have solved the top challenges facing vertical farming:

  • Power and labour costs: With our patented three-phase power and automation platform, we have significantly reduced energy and labour costs.
  • Water scarcity: Our closed-loop irrigation system reduces water consumption considerably compared to open field and greenhouse farming. Lettuce for example needs 1L of water in an IGS farm vs 20L in a greenhouse and 250L in a traditional field.
  • Productivity: Our patented HVAC and modular fertigation systems deliver greater uniformity and is up to 15x more efficient in yield/footprint over glasshouses and polytunnels.

The level of control, depth of data capture and the ongoing software development undertaken by IGS all combine to deliver a system capable of future-proofing global food supplies.

Interested in learning more about vertical farming through IGS? Click here to take a virtual tour of the IGS Crop Research Centre located at the James Hutton Institute – Scotland’s largest scientific research centre and one of the biggest in the United Kingdom.

Ceres SunChamber™ vs. Indoor

Ceres SunChamber™ Vs. Indoor: Equipment and Design Scope of Work

There is a lot that goes into the development of a new commercial ag facility. Even after you’ve figured out how to fund your project, finalizing a facility design, sourcing equipment, and then building it can be a long and burdensome process.

But it doesn’t have to be. At Ceres, we are a one-stop shop that believes in a whole system solution. Meaning when you decide on a Ceres SunChamber™ (our sealed greenhouse design), the majority of the scope of work to get your operation up and running is handled by our dedicated team. This includes design and engineering, cultivation system integration, equipment sourcing and construction oversight. Not only does this holistic approach save you time and money, it also removes obstacles from the path to the success of your operation.

To fully demonstrate what we mean when we say we handle most of the project scope, we’ve put together a graphic that compares the design and equipment scope of an indoor grow and a Ceres SunChamber™. As you can see, to get an indoor operation up and running you would potentially need to employ 14 different roles. This requires a lot of time and energy to find different engineers, designers, manufacturers and specialists and then manage communication between these roles so the project is completed efficiently and without pitfalls.

When you sign on with Ceres, we do all the design and MEP engineering of your facility and we handle the sourcing of your materials and greenhouse systems from our established network of equipment providers. You’re benefiting from a proven system that produces high-performing growing environments.

Visit Ceres in booth 3009 at Indoor Ag-Con, Octobe 4-5, 2021 at the Hilton Orlando to learn more!

Argus Controls Experts Discuss Benefits Of Well-Designed Automation System

Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor Argus Controls invites you to learn from its experts in this downloadable document what is a well-designed automation system and how it can contribute to increased yield & quality.Argus Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor

Environmental control systems have proven to be a key element for indoor and greenhouse growers, helping users to improve plant quality, control temperature and other variables, collect useful data and an important labor-saving tool; however, only well-designed systems will elevate an operation to optimal levels. This document is a transcript of a recent webinar where three industry experts from Argus Controls explore both the advantages and how to optimize the use of indoor and greenhouse automation systems.


Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor Argus Controls


Surna Cultivation Technologies Adds Architectural Design Services

Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor Surna Cultivation Technologies announces the addition of architectural design services to its growing portfolio of product and service offerings.Surna Cultivation Technologies Indoor Ag-Con 2021

Jon Kozlowski, Vice President of Sales for Surna Cultivation Technologies, stated, “The architectural design for a facility is the backbone of the construction project, and effective coordination with engineering teams and providers of cultivation-specific infrastructure for a facility is absolutely crucial to ensuring that the foundational design is accurate. We’re excited to be able to provide these services at the earliest stages of the design, and to coordinate frequently with the other members of the team. This sets our customers up for an on-time, on-budget project, and long-term operational success.”

Surna Cultivation Technologies architectural design services include:

Efficient Design – Surna understands that workflow processes in cultivation facilities are critically important to the bottom line and will work with its customers to deliver a thoughtfully considered plan that addresses every requirement of their business.

• Deep Expertise – Having worked with cultivators all over the world on over 200 commercial cultivation facilities, Surna has a deep understanding of the systems used in cultivation operations and how those systems must be integrated within the building itself.

• Flexibility – From simple floorplan development and schematics, to a fully integrated architectural and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) permit and construction plan set, Surna can help with any or all of a facility’s design needs.

• Long Term Support – From permitting support, to construction administration, to post-construction assistance and future design collaboration, Surna will provide project support for the length of the project.

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