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Tag: Hydroponic

Going Mainstream | Q & A With Babylon Micro-Farms CEO Alexander Olesen

Alexander Olesen - Babylon Co-FounderCEOFrom the beginning, Babylon Micro-Farms CEO Alexander Olesen has sought to make vertical farming accessible to mainstream markets. Combining subscription services with advanced technology and innovative equipment, the Babylon Micro-Farms “all-in-one” farming experience does just that for a growing customer base, including universities, hospitals, restaurants, resorts, senior care facilities and more.

We had the chance to catch up with Alexander to learn more about his innovative company and exciting plans for the future in this month’s CEO Q &A.

Can you share a little about how and why you got started, including the story behind the name of your company?

We started out exploring applications for small scale hydroponic systems in refugee camps while studying at the University of Virginia. Through that process, we built prototype systems capable of feeding a family and observed that the user experience was complicated and commercially available automation was prohibitively expensive, which represented a fundamental constraint for the adoption of small scale vertical farms.

We founded the company to miniaturize the semi-automation found in commercial-scale farms, at a fraction of the cost and designed it to be controlled via the cloud to allow for aggregated data collection.Today we’ve built and deployed that underlying technology on our fleet of distributed Micro-Farms in North America. We’re just getting started in our journey to apply our underlying technology to different vertical farming systems and in doing so expand the market for sustainable indoor farming.

We decided to call the company Babylon to pay homage to the hanging gardens of Babylon, one of the first known aquaculture systems and one of the ancient wonders of the world.

Congrats on securing $4 million in grant and investment funding earlier this year. Tell us what this means for your Babylon IQ software program and expansion plans.

Babylon Micro-Garms Data MiningWe’re accelerating the commercialization of indoor farming service with hundreds of Micro-Farms being installed in foodservice operations across North America. We’re confident in our technology’s ability to deliver an unparalleled growing experience and it’s exciting to see the data coming in from our growing base of happy customers.

What do you hope to achieve with the partnership you’ve entered into with collegiate food service company, Harvest Table Culinary Group.

Cafeteria Babylon Mico-Farm

We’ve built a tremendous partnership with Harvest Table Culinary Group and they’re one of the most innovative culinary teams in the US. They’re pioneering a new level of responsible, local food sourcing at college campuses across the country and we’re proud to support them in their efforts to inspire a new generation of healthy consumers.

You’re also working with senior communities and hospitals. What advantages and goals do you have for these sectors and are there other markets you’re looking at?

There are organizations of all different types that are demanding their foodservice operations source higher-quality ingredients and reduce their environmental footprint. The technology we’ve developed and the service we’ve built on top of it enables these organizations to literally source food on-site, all year round, without any of the headaches associated with outdoor farming.

It’s a new way of doing things and it’s amazing to see hospital patients, senior citizens, students, and many other groups adopting Micro-Farms as a means of sourcing the highest quality produce and growing it right in front of the end consumer. The benefit of our remote management platform and our growing customer base is that the data is flowing back to us in abundance.

We’re gaining a very granular understanding of how our customers operate, what they consume, and, critically, how we can help to have a better experience. These insights are driving our success in the institutional foodservice space and they’ll allow us to expand into adjacent markets in the near future.

Where do you see your company 5 or 10 years from now – what’s your ultimate goal?

Bablylon Micro-Farms PlatformOur goal has always been to make vertical farming accessible to mainstream markets. We’re proving that it’s commercially viable with our foodservice partners and simultaneously we’re seeing the rapid expansion of the local food movement that’s driving a ton of innovations in the CEA space.

We’ve developed our technology and service specifically for small scale on-site vertical farms and we’re now pioneering an “intel inside” model to enable new vertical farming systems to be successful.

In 5 to 10 years we are going to see a plethora of on-site systems for different markets and crop types and we hope they’ll all be powered by BabylonIQ.

To learn more about Babylon Micro-Farms:

P: 877.589.2884
W: www.babylonmicrofarms.com
E: info@babylonmicrofarms.com

Babylon Micro-Farms Video Resources

 

Kurt M. Aken Joins AmplifiedAg to Lead Expansion of its Vertical Roots Business

In a sign that vertical farming is reaching an inflection point, AmplifiedAg hires produce industry veteran to lead growth for its flagship brand, Vertical Roots

Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor AmplifiedAg, Inc. a leading platform in the fast-growing category of hydroponic vertical farming – announces the hiring of industry veteran Kurt M. Aken to lead the growth of its Vertical Roots brand. Aken joins as Executive Vice President, Business Development following a successful 24-year tenure with two of the most recognized consumer produce brands in the United States – Fresh Express and Chiquita Brands International. Aken will be focused on supporting and extending the Vertical Roots hydroponic produce brand, which is currently sold in more than 1,700 retail locations in the Southeast United States.

“I, like many others in the produce industry, have been watching the evolution of vertical farming with intense interest,” said Aken. “Vertical farming represents an important part of the future of sustainable food supply and produce capacity, and I’m inspired by AmplifiedAg’s approach and leadership.”

“AmplifiedAg’s best-in-class technology, modular and scalable construction capability,and unrivaled growing expertise is the foundation of Vertical Roots success, and makes the most reliable partner for retailers and wholesalers looking for the best produce possible,” Aken added.

Vertical Roots currently operates hydroponic container farms in Charleston, SC, Columbia, SC and Atlanta,GA, with more farm expansions on the horizon. Since January 2020, Vertical Roots has grown its retail footprint 272% and now offers its lettuce in approximately 1,700 grocery stores across the Southeast. The hydroponic produce line includes a variety of salad mixes and Green Butter, Green Oak, and Green Leaf Living Lettuces. The brand also recently introduced one of the first ever hydroponic varieties of large-leaf Romaine.

Vertical Roots produce is grown in hydroponic farms constructed from repurposed shipping containers, and leverages AmplifiedAg’s proprietary software and hardware to optimize growing cycles and insure premier quality and consistency. Farms are built to USDA and FDA food safety standards, and the hydroponic growing method means no soil, no pesticides, and more nutritious, clean, longer lasting produce.

During Aken’s career at Fresh Express and Chiquita Brands, he led the corporate account team that serviced leading grocery retailers across the United States. Aken was responsible for cultivating new business opportunities in nontraditional
produce channels including foodservice, club and drug and discount store segments, as well as theme parks and cruise lines.

Andrew Hare, co-founder and general manager of Vertical Roots, said, “Kurt’s extensive industry experience, including retail and customer insights, consumer trends, and supply chain management, will help us further accelerate the growth of our Vertical Roots brand. He is a recognized leader in the category and we are proud that he has chosen to join our company and work with us to advance our mission.”

# # #

About AmplifiedAg, Inc.
AmplifiedAg, Inc.™ is a leader in the indoor agriculture category focused on empowering a scalable, resilient, and sustainable food supply and providing global populations with access to clean, fresh, and healthy produce. The company manufactures modular and scalable indoor farms using refurbished shipping containers and advanced hydroponic systems controlled by its proprietary hardware and seed-to- sale SaaS-based.

AmplifiedAg’s flagship brand Vertical Roots is the largest hydroponic container farm in the world and currently sells its produce through more than 1,700 grocery stores and numerous distributors.

In addition to powering its flagship brand Vertical Roots, AmplifiedAg provides holistic indoor farming solutions to sustainably grow and distribute food anywhere in the world. Learn more at www.amplifiedaginc.com.

ZipGrow Expands to New Facility, Inks Deal with Sodexo

Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor ZipGrow has expanded its footprint, moving from leased premises to its own building at the corner of Cumberland and Seventh Street in Cornwall, Ontario Canada. The new building more than doubles the amount of space available to the manufacturer of the world’s most installed vertical hydroponic equipment.Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor ZipGrow

“Demand for our products continues to soar,” says Eric Lang, President of ZipGrow. “The new building allows us to be more efficient while at the same time giving us room to grow in the future.”

Growth is on the menu at ZipGrow, with the company launching an innovative partnership with Sodexo to introduce sustainable growing systems to facilities throughout Canada and the United States.

“Having been installed throughout the world over the past decade, our system enables growers, both big and small, to access fresh produce no matter where they are located”, explains Mr. Lang. “We are excited to move ahead with this new partnership with Sodexo. Together we will be able to introduce sustainable food to Sodexo locations throughout North America.”

ZipGrow technology is a patented system that utilizes both hydroponic growing systems and vertical planes to maximize production volume within a small footprint. Primarily growing leafy greens such as lettuce and kale, along with herbs and small fruiting crops such as strawberries, ZipGrow systems will be installed in Sodexo locations including educational institutions, conference facilities, and corporate food service centres.

“This new partnership with ZipGrow not only enables us to reduce our carbon emissions of distance traveled for food source, onsite food waste, and packaging requirements, but also to introduce innovative technology to our facilities and team members”, said Normand St-Gelais, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Sodexo Canada.

About ZipGrow

ZipGrow is an international leader in indoor, vertical farming technology. The company’s flagship product, the ZipGrow Tower, is a core component of many of the world’s most innovative farms; from indoor hydroponic warehouses to vertical aquaponic greenhouses and high-density container farms

Story sourced from  from Choosecornwall.ca  

New Sustainability Partnership Launched Between Sodexo and ZipGrow Inc.

ZipGrow and Sodexo Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor NewsOn March 11, 2021  two international industry leaders, Sodexo and ZipGrow Inc., launched a first of its kind partnership to develop more sustainable local food chains throughout North America.

Sodexo, world leader in Quality of Life Services, has joined forces with ZipGrow Inc., the manufacturer of the world’s most installed vertical hydroponic equipment. Together they wll develop a unique program to introduce sustainable growing systems to facilities throughout Canada and the United States of America.

Introducing Innovative  Technology

One of Sodexo’s primary goals is to ensure all our operations are industry leading from a sustainability perspective. “This new partnership with ZipGrow Inc. not only enables us to reduce our carbon emissions of distance traveled for food source, onsite food waste, and packaging requirements, but also to introduce innovative technology to our facilities and team members”, said Normand St-Gelais, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Sodexo Canada.

ZipGrow Systems To Be Installed At Sodexo Locations

ZipGrow™ technology is a patented system that utilizes both hydroponic growing systems and vertical planes to maximize production volume within a small footprint. Primarily growing leafy greens such as lettuce and kale, along with herbs and small fruiting crops such as strawberries, ZipGrow systems will be installed in Sodexo locations including educational institutions, conference facilities, and corporate food service centres.

“Having been installed throughout the world over the past decade, our system enables growers, both big and small, to access fresh produce no matter where they are located”, explains Eric Lang, President of ZipGrow Inc. “We are excited to move ahead with this new partnership with Sodexo. Together we will be able to introduce sustainable food to Sodexo locations throughout North America.”

“As a Chef, we are always looking for ways to introduce the freshest possible produce to our kitchens”, said Chef Davide Del Brocco, Sustainability Manager, Sodexo Canada. “By having a grow system on site, we can now not only customize our produce to meet our upcoming needs, but we can also now harvest fresh greens and use them that same day.”Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor ZipGrow

“Having like-minded partners like ZipGrow who understand what is important to us and who are aligned with our values and goals is crucial in working together for a Better Tomorrow.” said Andrea Cantin, Corporate Social Responsibility Coordinator, Sodexo Canada. With Sodexo and ZipGrow Inc. both having company values strongly embedded in sustainability, this new partnership will see this innovative agriculture technology being introduced to multiple Sodexo facilities in Canada and the US.

About Sodexo

Sodexo delivers a wide range of customized solutions, designed to optimize work and living environments. The company has been providing food and facilities management services in Canada for over 40 years, with a focus on enhancing safety, work process and well-being. A market leader in Canada, Sodexo has been recognized as a top employer for the past seven consecutive years. Sodexo is proud to have created the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, an independent charitable organization that has raised over $3 million to fight hunger and donated more than one million meals to at-risk youth across Canada since 2007. It is included in the CAC 40, FTSE 4 Good and DJSI indices.

Key figures (as November 2020)
420,000 employees
1st in its sector in both the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and the 2020 SAM sustainability yearbook
64 countries
100 million consumers served daily

About ZipGrow Inc.

ZipGrow Inc. is an international leader in indoor, vertical farming technology. Our flagship product, the ZipGrow™ Tower, is a core component of many of the world’s most innovative farms; from indoor hydroponic warehouses to vertical aquaponic greenhouses and and high-density container farms. For more information contact hello@zipgrow.com or at 1-855-ZIPGROW.

Sananbio Ark Climate-Controlled Mobile Farm

tIndoor Ag-Con exhibitor SANANBIO, a leading vertical farming solution provider,  announces the availability of its climate controlled mobile farm for growers globally – Sananbio Ark.

Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor Sananbio Lalunches Sananbio Ark Mobile Farm
SANANBIO ARK HIGHLIGHTS

“3,300-4,400 lbs of cucumbers, 7,700 lbs of arugula, or 8,000 lbs of lettuce. These are the proven annual yields that we’re confident to announce,” said Zhan Zhuo, co-founder and CEO of SANANBIO. “We ‘produce’ turnkey farms and this one is mobile.”

The Sananbio Ark adapts to any climate thanks to its thermal insulation system. the system has   a thermal conductivity below 0.024w/(m·K). One of the mobile farms operated as usual in a coldness of -40 degree Fahrenheit in northern China. This  sustained local communities with local produce at a reduced carbon footprint. It  is shocking to find that our food travels 1,500 miles on average before reaching our plate.  In addition, the CO2 generated, and the nutrients lost during the transportation, can’t be good for the planet or human beings. That’s why local food is advocated.

“The ready-to-use farm is the solution we offer to regions where the environment is too harsh to support stable agricultural production,” said Zhan.

To streamline the farming experience, the designer simplifies the start-up procedures to a single plug-in motion.  Simply power it up through a connector on the exterior and then even hydroponic beginners are set to grow. Moreover, growers can monitor and control farm metrics simply by moving fingertips on their phone.

“By simplifying modern agriculture, we offer more farming opportunities for kids and urban dwellers. We have a mobile farm deployed in a Malaysian suburb where kids from the neighborhood frequent the farm for hands-on hydroponic experience. It’s a perfect bonding time when families go there to pick their own salad ingredients. As a Photobiotech company, we’re nurturing a new generation of growers,” said Zhan.

For more info about the mobile farm, please visit www.sananbio.com/ark.

About SANANBIO

SANANBIO is a joint-venture by Sanan Optoelectronics, one of the world’s largest LED manufacturers, and the Institute of Botany of Chinese Academy of Sciences, a leading institute in plant science. Comprised of LED experts and plant scientists, SANANBIO is able to provide simple CEA solutions for growers globally. The RADIX, a Reddot award winner, has been widely endorsed by growers in more than twenty countries.

OASIS Grower Solutions Introduces Fortify Liquid Nutrient Supplement

Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor Oasis Launches FortifyIndoor Ag-Con Exhibitor Oasis Grower Solutions introduces Fortify, a liquid nutrient supplement, designed to optimize the growth performance and increase harvest weights while reducing production time by up to 20%.Fortify is an amino acid based nutrient supplement developed through extensive research and trials. Use of Fortify improves nutrient uptake and reduces stress at all stages of production. Fortify can be applied to leafy greens (lettuce, herbs, and micro greens) produced using Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), Deep or Shallow water culture and aeroponic culture.Fortify is best applied using a dosing system in conjunction with a complete fertilizer program.“Fortify is a way for growers to maximize the utilization of their production space. Growers want as many turns as possible.” said Bill Riffey, Global Director of Oasis Grower Solutions. When used as a nutrient supplement, Fortify has the potential of reducing the production time providing up to one additional crop cycle annually.”

Oasis Grower Solutions provides propagation products and post-harvest care solutions for greenhouse produced ornamental and food crops. Oasis® Grower Solutions products include, plant propagation Rootcubes®, Terra Plug, Fertiss®, Horticubes®, Oasis® HydroPRO System, Hydroponic Fertilizer, Soax® wetting agent, disease control and greenhouse cleaners.

For more information about Oasis Grower Solutions and their products, contact Bill Riffey at WRiffey@smithersoasis.com or visit http://new.oasisgrowersolutions.com/fortify/.

About Smithers-Oasis

Smithers-Oasis’ global expertise of the plant and flower business stretches from propagation to presentation. With locations in 20 countries and resources around the world, Smithers-Oasis manufactures floral foam products, postharvest products, growing media and flower arranging supplies for the floriculture industry. OASIS® and Floralife® are two of the company’s most recognized brands founded in 1954 and 1938, respectively. With more than 60 years of experience with foaming technology, Smithers-Oasis also develops specialty foams for a wide variety of applications including packaging, impression, absorption and molding. The company’s driving purpose is “to help people express and experience emotion by adding value to flowers and plants.” Smithers-Oasis, a privately owned company, is headquartered in Kent, Ohio, USA.

Urban Fresh Farms Launches New ZipGrow Facility In Dubai


ZipGrow_UrbanFreshFarms_Dubai_2_IndoorAg-ConIndoor Ag-Con
Exhibitor News From ZipGrow:

With more than 80% of food being imported into the UAE, Urban Fresh Farms, Dubai’s newest indoor vertical hydroponic farm from ZipGrow™, is doing its part to contribute to a more sustainable local food system.

A 1,000 square foot ZipGrow™ ZipFarm™ was recently installed in Urban Fresh Farm’s facility in the Industrial center of Dubai. In addition, it will soon be producing pesticide free fresh herbs and leafy greens for the local market. Urban Fresh Farms is a new company, founded by people who always had an interest in sustainable agriculture. But, they thought they did not have the knowledge or financial backing to get into the industry.

Vertical Farming In Dubai

“We, as a group, always found vertical farming really interesting. The team knew there would be a strong demand for it in the Dubai area”, said Scott Naude, co-founder of Urban Fresh Farms. “As a result, we were hesitant to jump in at first.  But, the combination of ZipGrow’s technology and ongoing training, the increasing demand for higher quality and fresh produce, and the Middle East’s booming tech sector all aligned perfectly for us to begin this venture.”

As with the rest of the world, COVID-19’s impact on the local supply chain has also impacted the Dubai area. It has caused food selections to be  limited in local grocery stores during the peak of lockdowns.

“Around the world we are hearing from all our growers that food retailers are actively looking for local food goods to supply,” explains Eric Lang, President of ZipGrow Inc. “We are also hearing from government’s around the world, including in the UAE, who want to actively seek out ways to reduce supply chain lengths to ensure a more consistent and high-quality food stream.”

Hydroponic Growing In the Middle East

Hydroponic growing, as an industry, is still recently new to the Middle East region. The UAE government is a leader in the Middle East region, and in 2018 launched a National Food Security Strategy 2051, led by the Minister of State for Food and Water Security, Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Al Mheiri. This strategy aims to increase local food production in the UAE.  What’s more, it simultaneously maximizing the use of modern technologies to bring fresh and sustainable food to the region.

“There’s also a demand for healthy eating options. This  has given rise to a number of excellent meal plan services and  all-in-one meal ingredient boxes.  IThis is creating a need for the best, freshest vegetables to be readily available” adds Naude. “We’re planning on starting out growing primarily herbs such as basil, parsley and coriander. We hope to have our first crop available in December.”

Urban Fresh Farm and ZipGrow Inc. plan to use this new facility to showcase this vertical farming technology to the UAE and wider Middle East region. Naude adds; “We’re excited about our ongoing partnership with ZipGrow Inc. There is so much educational content available, as well as a fantastic team. So even for someone like myself who is new to all of this, ZipGrow provides all the tools needed to get growing.”

Look for more Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor News From ZipGrow on this page. And visit  www.ZipGrow.com and www.UrbanFreshFarms.ae for more information. 

ABOUT ZIPGROW

ZipGrow Inc. is an international leader in indoor, vertical farming technology. Our flagship product, the ZipGrow™ Tower, is a core component of many of the world’s most innovative farms; from indoor hydroponic warehouses to vertical aquaponic greenhouses and high-density container farms.

Hydroponic Seedling Propagation | 5 Tips For Success

Hydroponic Seedling Propagation Indoor Ag-Conversations“The only way to achieve high quality, uniform crops is to start with high quality, uniform seedlings,” said Joe Swartz, vice president, AmHydro. As  moderator of the “Hydroponic Seedling Propagation” Indoor Ag-Conversations webinar hosted by Indoor Ag-Con summer, Joe and panelists John Jackson, SIGS, Nick Green, Nick Greens Grow Team  and Dr. Vijay Rapaka, Smithers-Oasis, took a deep  dive into the topic, sharing a wide range of tips and innovations with the audience.

During the program, Dr.  Rapaka, Ph.D., Corporate Research Manager, Smithers-Oasis,  zeroed in on 5 critical tips for propagation success — regardless of the type of growing system you’re using:

#1. LIGHT

We know light is important for photosynthesis. It is also key for photomorphogenesis (the development of form and structure in plants which is affected by light).  Once the seed cracks, he says, you need to focus on proper light intensity and light duration. You cannot ignore one or the other.  Otherwise you will end up with a number of issues. These can range from elongation to yellowing leaves suffering from lack of chlorophyll development.

#2. WATERING

Frequency and duration are key, says Rapaka, whether you are running a multi-million-dollar facility controlled with a Priva system or a smaller operation using a Rainbird control system. Since most of us are growing crops like leafy greens and tomato seedlings rather than rice, you only need to water once a day or every other day. You do not have to bombard or flood your plants multiple times a day. The plant quality suffers because the roots can get excess water, which is not good for seedling growth.

#3. NUTRIENTS

To be clear, Rapaka is separating watering from nutrients.  He disagrees with old hydroponics textbooks that suggest nutrients are not required until day 3 or 4.  When growing crops in controlled environments where, for example, you’re providing light and CO2, if you do not have the right nutrients, you’re headed for trouble.  You do not have to put the plants on a restricted diet he says, using human gluten free diets as an example. But, as soon as the seed cracks, he adds, it needs to see nutrients. Regardless of the media you’re using, make sure you are treating with nutrients starting with the very first watering.

#4. PROPAGATION

Sometimes people think if they’re planting really high density, they can go with a smaller footprint or smaller plug size to save a few cents.  Rapaka explains that you will lose dollars in the long run here because once  leaves start emerging, there should be no shading effect.  If there is, propagation quality suffers.

#5. TIMING

Turns out, timing is, indeed, everything.  You have to do the right things at the right time, Rapaka explains.  It’s wonderful to grow beautiful, quality seedlings, but it’s critical to transplant them at the right time.  If plants get overcrowded or rootbound, you have a transplant delay. Whatever  quality you are achieving at the young plant stage will not be transferred once you transplant.

During his presentation, Rapaka also shared updates about Fortify, Smithers-Oasis’ new liquid nutrient supplement, designed to optimize the growth performance and increase harvest weights while reducing production time by up to 20%.

In short, said Rapaka, hydroponic production is sexy, propagation is not … and it is often neglected.  Everything starts with propagation.  You’ve got to start strong to end strong, he adds.

The entire webinar, as well as many others in our new Indoor Ag-Conversations series, are available on demand. Simply visit our Indoor Ag-Conversations page to access the recording.

The Underutilized Labor Market For Controlled Environment Agriculture | CEA

Recently, Lou Driever, grower for The Abilities Connection (TAC), a 501(c)3 that provides vocational rehabilitation for adults with developmental disabilities,  reached out to us regarding the labor market for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA).  He wanted to share what his organization and others are doing to help provide local greenhouse / nursery employers with trained, experienced workers ready to be employed in an integrated setting.

“CEA involves a lot of repetitive activity where clearly defined observations are crucial to efficiently nourish, harvest and pack produce,” said Driever.  “Regretfully, it’s not a great pathway to riches for average hands-on workers. It’s tough for employers to find enthusiastic workers that relish the scope of work who will show up for work faithfully while drawing minimum wage.  There is an underutilized labor market that can meet these needs.”

TAC IndustriesDriever went on to detail how TAC has operated a 3,000 square foot greenhouse and 1,000 square foot grow room raising leafy greens for the past 10 years.

“By teaching our individuals how to plant, transplant, harvest and pack produce (following strict QC / sanitary guidelines) we can provide local greenhouse / nursery employers with trained, experienced workers ready to be employed in an integrated setting.  We aren’t alone,” he added. “We are a member of the Growing Opportunities Partnership – a group of 10 different organizations sharing the same approach and methodology.  Even WE aren’t alone – there are probably at least 20 other groups across the country with the same mission.  That doesn’t include organizations providing vocational rehabilitation using greenhouse settings to veterans with PTSD, those previously incarcerated or in other socially disadvantaged groups.  Each of these can be a resource for employers – if they are aware of them.”

Driever shared information on the 10 organizations comprising the Growing Opportunities Partnership below and has offered to field any questions you might have, as he can connect you with an organization best suited to your geography  He can be reached at 937-525-7500.

The Arnold Center/We Grow – Midland, Michigan
Greg Knop | gknopp@arnoldcenter.org  |   ph 989-898-1592

The Arnold CenterLaunched in 2018, the indoor farm has approximately 6,000 square feet of space and capacity for 26,000 plants. The farm raises lettuce, kale, basil microgreens, amaranth, green and purple shiso, wasabi, cilantro and mint. Twelve full and part-time employees work at the indoor farm. They monitor the pumps, which dispense nutrients as they are needed. They transfer plants from germination to seedling stage and later to the area where plants grow to their desired size and are harvested. We have a great opportunity to explore agricultural sustainability and we’ve got a great opportunity to create jobs for people with disabilities. Arnold Farms uses no pesticides, and the founder Craig Varterian likes to call the facilities plants ‘purer than organic’. What’s Varterian’s dream for the future of Arnold Farms? He’d like to employ this kind of farming around the country, especially in ‘food deserts’ where food isn’t easily accessible.  “I’d like to see people with disabilities as leaders around the country in this type of farming,” he adds.  More information is available here. 

Developmental Disabilities Institute – Long Island, New York
Thomas Forester (Assistant Director) ph 631-360-4604

DDIFounded in 1961, DDI is a dynamic, non-profit agency with more than 30 locations throughout Long Island, NY.  It provides special education, vocational , day and residential programs, as well as healthcare services for more than 5,000 children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.  The Horticulture curriculum of DDI offers greenhouse opportunities to more than 300 adults served in Adult Day Services.  The greenhouse has been in operation for more than 30 years.  Some of the vegetables include peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, kale and various herbs to name a few.  The greenhouse offers 1,500 square feet of growing space.  This enables the DDI team to grow vegetables indoors during the colder weather.  Vegetables grown are either sold at farmers markets or used at various site for cooking classes.  More information is available here.

Greens Do Good – Hackensack, New Jersey
Jessalin Jaume, Farm Manger and Jennifer Faust, Operations Manager.   ph 201-960-2355

Greens Do GoodGreens Do Good raises microgreens, basil and butterhead lettuce hydroponically in Hoboken, New Jersey. They donate 100% of their proceeds to REED Next, a nonprofit organization supporting adults with autism. This helps provide continued education, life experience, and work opportunities so that these individuals can achieve greater independence and participate meaningfully in their communities. Greens Do Good also provides these individuals the opportunity to work at our farm. Our focus is on providing local businesses with top-quality, locally grown ingredients year-round. We hand-pick and pack our produce at the height of freshness and deliver them straight to our customer’s door for peak taste and nutrition. In the future, we hope to open more farms with the goal of expanding and continuing to create sustainable funding for REED Next. More information about our work is available here

Lettuce Dream – Maryville, Missouri
Charlie Clodfelter  (Director) ph 660-224-2203

Lettuce DreamLettuce Dream is a social enterprise engaged in hydroponic farming that exists to provide meaningful employment and job training programs for persons with cognitive or developmental disabilities so that they may enjoy the benefits of living, working and fully participating in our community.  Lettuce Dream was founded in 2016 and operates a 6700 square foot hydroponic greenhouse. Lettuce Dream helps to provide workplace skill training for young adults with intellectual disabilities. The people with disabilities in Lettuce Dream’s program take part in an internship alongside volunteers from the community, staff and their college peers from Northwest Missouri State University growing 500-700 lbs of leafy greens and living basil per week. The interns in the program help with all aspects of Lettuce Dream’s business operations including- seeding, transplant, packaging, food safety recordkeeping, data entry, invoicing and customer service. After obtaining the necessary pre-vocational skills and developing their resumes through the internship program, Lettuce Dream helps the interns transition to community employment. Lettuce Dream helps the individuals in the program secure jobs and provides further on the job support through job coaching. Since their founding, Lettuce Dream has helped provide employment supports for 24 people with disabilities and has an 83% placement rate for individuals that have completed the program.  More information is available here.

Medina Creative Produce – Medina, Ohio
Cheryl Kukwa (Greenhouse Manager) ph 330-591-4434

Medina Creative PRoduceMedina Creative Produce provides vocational training for students from Medina County School Districts and adults with physical and developmental disabilities, many whom are residents of Medina Creative Housing. Workers develop skills such as cultivating, harvesting and marketing locally grown, nutrient rich Butter Bibb and Romaine lettuce. Our hydroponic greenhouse is fully handicapped accessible to accommodate the broad spectrum of individuals with disabilities that we serve. In 2011, a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was held celebrating the opening of our hydroponic greenhouse, which supplies local restaurants, schools and area businesses with gourmet lettuce. A weekly harvest produces on average six hundred heads of lettuce and proceeds pay the workers’ wages. Our lettuce is used to support our café’s located at local hospitals. More information available here.

The Murdoch Center – Butner, North Carolina
Hayley Tate (Recreational Therapist) ph 919-575-1253

Murdoch Developmental CenterMurdoch Developmental Center in Butner, NC is one of three state operated developmental centers, primarily serving 25 counties of the Central Region. Murdoch provides services and support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), complex behavioral challenges and or medical conditions whose clinical treatment needs cannot be supported in the community. Murdoch operates four specialty programs including children and adolescents programs which are available for individuals residing in all regions of the state. Our hydroponic greenhouse is a vital component of our vocational rehabilitation program. More information is available here.

Peacehaven Farm – Whitsett, North Carolina
Buck Cochran (CEO) ph 336-449-9900

Peacehaven Community FarmPeacehaven Community Farm is a sustainable farm established in 2007 and located on 89 beautiful acres of organic gardens, rolling pastures, and lush woodlands that connects people with special needs to their community – and connects their community to them! After high school graduation, there are few housing and programming options for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Peacehaven seeks to offer these folks in our community the choice to live in a farm setting within a community where people with and without disabilities live and work side by side. We use the term “Core Members” to describe the individuals with disabilities who live and work at Peacehaven. That term reflects their central status in our community. They are at the core of all that we do and are the best teachers of the values of community. Major expansions in our vocational and housing programs are planned for this year. In our hydroponic greenhouse we focus on raising lettuce, greens and culinary herbs. Partnerships with other organizations in our community and the Growing Opportunities collation represent a keystone practice for Peacehaven. More information is available in this video.

The Trellis Center – Ellensburg, Washington
Heather Odenthal  heather@thetrelliscenter.com |  ph 509-968-4040

Trellis CenterCurrently more than 85% of individuals with developmental disabilities are unemployed due to lack of transitional support, job-site training, and employment opportunities geared for success. The Trellis Center aims to fill this gap for young adults with developmental disabilities who are approaching this transition time or adults who have graduated from high school but still need a structured environment designed to match programming to individual capabilities. With a focus on agriculture, the Trellis Center provides vocational skill development, stimulating activities, and a social community of peers. More information is available here

TAC Industries Inc. – Ohio
 Lou Driever (Hydroponics Coordinator) Springfield, Ohio ph 937-525-7500

TAC IndustriesBuilding on the success of the indoor hydroponic operation, TAC Industries Inc. built a 3,000 square foot hydroponic greenhouse in 2010. Twelve adults with developmental disabilities regularly work there to raise lettuce, kale, cilantro and orache. The produce is served at our sister restaurant “Fresh Abilities” and is also available at the local farmer’s market. Our customers have also included both public and private local schools, restaurants and the local culinary institute. We aim to donate 40# of produce each week to 2nd Harvest Food Bank (supporting over 60 pantries in 3 counties). More information is available here

Zeponic Farms – Woodbridge, Virginia
Zach Zeph (Founder) ph 571-296-4477

Zeponic FarmsThrough the use of innovative urban farming models, we provide supported employment for adults with special needs and autism. We grow greens and micro greens for local restaurants, colleges, and individuals within the community. All of our produce is non GMO and grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. More information is available here