Jake Counne, Wilder Fields
Jake Counne established Backyard Fresh Farms as an incubator in 2016. At the time, he knew that most large-scale vertical farming operations were large-scale financial disappointments.
So rather than attempting to patch up the prevailing model, he and his team chose to build something new from the ground up. “Other start-ups had tried scaling their operations with antiquated greenhouse practices,” he says. “We realized that to solve the massive labor and energy problems that persist with indoor vertical farming. So we needed to look to other industries that had mastered how to scale.”
That vision, as well as several years of persistent innovation, came to fruition in 2019 when Counne announced he would transplant the successful pilot farm—now renamed Wilder Fields—into a full-scale commercial vertical farm. It is currently under construction in an abandoned Super Target store, with an uninterrupted expanse of three acres under its roof in Calumet City, just outside Chicago.
Wilder Fields is designed to supply supermarkets and restaurants in the Chicago metro trade area. It is scheduled to sell its first produce in the spring of 2021. It will provide fresh produce to those living in nearby food deserts in Illinois and Northwest Indiana. To learn more, read our Q & A with Jake , which shares more of his vision and plans for the future.