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Tag: Local Food

Vertical Harvest Farms Secures USDA Loan Guarantee & Maine’s First C-PACE Funding for Industry-leading Project Financing

Deal Recognizes Power of Public-Private Partnerships to Bolster State’s Food System

Vertical Harvest Farms, an indoor farming company focused on customized employment for people with disabilities, is proud to announce the closing of $59.5 million in project financing to develop and operate a 51,000 square-foot hydroponic vertical farm in downtown Westbrook, Maine.

The project is a critical piece of the state’s food system infrastructure and will significantly contribute to the New England Food Vision, where the region’s six states committed to a goal of locally producing 30 percent of the food consumed in the region by 2030 (and 50 percent of the region’s food by 2060), by producing approximately 2.5 million pounds of fresh, leafy greens every year – ranging from mature lettuce, petite greens, microgreens and herbs.

This project also aligns with Vertical Harvest’s “feed locals first” philosophy and goal of providing greens from farm-to-fridge within 24 hours. In this way, the company helps New Englanders avoid the 30 percent loss of nutritional value that occurs within three days of harvest, which widely affects the produce shipped into the region from California, Arizona and abroad. It also significantly helps mitigate food waste by providing longer shelf life and less shrinkage at the retail and institutional level. The company offers these benefits while fulfilling its dual mission to grow food and futures by offering meaningful employment for people with disabilities in this emerging, tech-forward sector.

Vertical Harvest CEO Nona Yehia said, “We’re on a mission to grow food as local, fresh and fair as possible, and ensure there’s a place at the table for everyone in the future of food.”

As the US became a net food importer for the first time ever in 2023, stakeholders are realizing that traditional agriculture is under greater stress from extreme weather, water scarcity and climate change. This has made diversifying food production, leveraging technologic innovations, shortening supply chains, and ensuring access to fresh local food for years to come, imperative. USDA Rural Development recognizes this as well and is incentivizing efforts to future proof the food system.

“As ‘The People’s Department’ we are happy to support fresh food, and good jobs here in Maine, as well as the equity of access to both. USDA Rural Development is committed to building communities and feeding Mainers, and we look forward to Vertical Harvest being a part of the team fulfilling those shared goals,” said USDA Rural Development Maine State Director, Rhiannon Hampson.

This funding also aligns with the CEA Industry’s shift to project-level financing. Vertical Harvest is excited by the public and private partners that made this deal possible.

“We are thrilled to provide financing and partner with Vertical Harvest. Through two pioneer programs from the USDA and other community facilities, we were able to creatively structure this challenging project. We believe this will have a tremendous impact on the local community and the future of food production,” said Alexios Georgousis, Madison One CUSO.

The funding was led by Madison One and supported by Waterside Commercial Finance. The financing includes $25 million and $23,795,000 loans that utilize USDA Rural Development Business & Industry Loan Guarantees and Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Loans, respectively.

This financing is supplemented by a $8,655,189 Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) loan – the first in Maine administered by the Efficiency Maine Green

Bank and issued through Nuveen Green Capital – and $2,000,000 of American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding through the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME).

“We are pleased to have approved Vertical Harvest for this funding through the Efficiency Maine Green Bank in partnership with one of our capital providers, Nuveen Green Capital,” said James Neal, senior manager for finance initiatives at Efficiency Maine. “We strongly encourage more of Maine’s municipalities to follow Westbrook’s example and adopt this ordinance so their local businesses can take advantage of this unique pathway to finance energy improvements, such as upgrading lighting or installing heat pump systems for heating and cooling in their buildings.”

In addition, borrower and partner contributions of $19,189,210 are possible thanks to partners such as Crossroads Impact Corp, Enhanced Capital, Foundation Credit, Waterside Commercial Finance, Maine Technology Institute, and others.

“Public-private partnerships benefit a wider group of stakeholders than private capital can alone,” said Enhanced Capital’s Chief Impact Officer and Managing Director Gingee Prince. “In 2017, we partnered with Vertical Harvest to pioneer this space and are excited to see them building even more ambitious capital coalitions today.”

This array of funding follows Vertical Harvest’s model of using public-private partnerships to catalyze resilience within a state’s food system. The company believes this financing model, piloted in Wyoming and now proven in Maine, will pave the way for financing future farms such as the company’s next facility in Detroit, Michigan to be developed in partnership with Bedrock. By bringing together municipal, state and federal funding alongside private capital, not only is the company relocalizing production of perishable produce closer to consumers, but because of Vertical Harvest’s social mission, delivering outsized impact, inclusively.

About Vertical Harvest
Vertical Harvest is a hydroponic, vertical farming company dedicated to community-oriented farms, food and futures. In addition to their passion for local, healthy food grown sustainably, Vertical Harvest also operates on an inclusive, customized employment model with farms designed for accessibility and staffed via hiring practices developed to support meaningful employment for people with disabilities. For more information visit www.verticalharvestfarms.com and sign up for the newsletter, or https://verticalharvestfarms.com/invest-in-vertical-harvest/ to learn about a community raise or follow on socials at @verticalharvestfarms.

Cultivating Change: Vertical Harvest CEO Talks Urban Farming, Local Impact, and Sustainable Futures

Founded in Jackson, Wyoming in 2016, Vertical Harvest stands out as a pioneering force — fusing architectural imagination, sustainable agriculture and a commitment to inclusivity.  Our CEA Q&A with CEO Nona Yehia explores the design principles and sustainability initiatives shaping her company’s growth, its newest projects in Westbrook, ME, and Detroit, MI and the meaningful difference the Vertical Harvest “Grow Well” model is making on the lives of individuals with disabilities.   From redefining “local” in food production to utilizing sustainable practices, Vertical Harvest has emerged not just as a trailblazer in controlled environment agriculture, but as a leader dedicated to feeding communities and fostering a brighter, more inclusive future.

As an accomplished architect, you brought your vision of North America’s first vertical hydroponic greenhouse to life with your flagship farm in Jackson, Wyoming in 2016. Could you share the key design and sustainability principles that guided the development of Vertical Harvest, and how these principles align with the company’s broader mission?

Vertical HarvestOur first farm in Wyoming started with a simple mandate: responsibly grow as much food as possible within our community (which has a four-month growing season and imports 90% of the food we eat) and to create job opportunities for people who live in our community, especially ones who suffer overwhelming unemployment rates, like people with disabilities. Our goal was to pursue both missions simultaneously, year-round via indoor growing, and work within the parameters of a city very scarce on available land and with a seasonable economy/labor pool.

And as an architect I’ve always been driven to try and understand the systems that build communities, how they support people, and conversely how they fail people, so it was amazing to dig into this in my own backyard. And I’ve rooted my career in the notion that the buildings and systems that make up the fabric of our cities, can and should be designed to meet the challenges of the 21st century – and be designed to serve all members of our 21st century society, especially those on the margins. States and cities are also recognizing that we need to do things differently, we need different approaches to climate adaptation as traditional agricultural systems come under greater stress.

Efforts to re-localize food production will be one of these different approaches and is a growing trend. As is indoor agriculture that can provide increased yields using fewer resources and climate proof our food supply against extreme weather.

So that’s how we became vertical farmers, designing and operating large scale indoor urban farms that grow better food and futures. We’ve seen how our farm is a new type of infrastructure that embodies conscious and radical inclusion — amplifying the voices of all to cultivate a new and burgeoning industry.

 

Vertical Harvest is expanding into different locations, such as the Westbrook, Maine farm and the recently announced project in Detroit. Can you share more about these projects and how they align with your mission of “feeding locals first” and supporting local food economies?

Vertical Harvest Maine
Vertical Harvest Westbrook rendering.

We imagine and advocate for a food system where everyone has the right to healthy food. Our goal to “feed locals first” prioritizes 70% of our produce going to customers within 150 miles of our farms — for the record we don’t call 400 miles “local” — and to meet the needs of the communities we’re growing in before we tap into wider distribution networks. To achieve this we look at the entire “community-as-our-customer” – so not just retail but also the small and medium businesses that make up the local culinary community as well as stalwart community institutions like hospitals, school systems, nursing homes and college campuses. On top of that we aim to divert 4 – 5 % of our farm’s total output specifically into low-income, low-access (LILA) channels, like food rescue operations and the charitable pantry system.

Vertical Harvest Detroit rendering
Vertical Harvest Detroit Rendering

Because of this focus on local food going to local folks, our farms are intentionally built within urban areas to both bolster the local food system and address food insecurity in the same communities where we farm. Our goal then becomes to replicate this mission across a national network of local farms. This is true in Westbrook, ME, a city in and of itself within the greater Portland Metro area, where we expect to be a meaningful contributor to the New England Food Vision of growing 30% of food locally by 2030. And it’s definitely true in Detroit, where we’re building in the Milwaukee Junction neighborhood with Bedrock Detroit. We’re very excited about exploring an even deeper level of opportunity there to imagine how we can use our farm to connect with all of the revitalization and infrastructure investment happening in that city (coincidentally, also my hometown and recently voted the #1 city in the world for start-ups).

Your commitment to employing people with disabilities and focusing on their abilities is inspiring. Can you elaborate on the impact this approach has had on the lives of your employees and how it has enhanced your company’s performance and mission?

Nona Yehia and Caroline Croft Estay
Vertical Harvest Co-Founders Nona Yehia and Caroline Croft Estay

Employing people with disabilities is personal. I grew up with a brother with developmental disabilities and from an early age, I observed how society treated him differently, with less opportunities. So when we set out to build the country’s first indoor vertical greenhouse, we wanted to implement a one-of-a-kind workforce model, too. Together, with my co-founder, Caroline Croft Estay – a former case manager in Teton County– we imagined “Grow Well,” a customized employment model fostering professional development, personal discovery and community impact. This person-centered approach aligns professional, personal and community components of the workplace to ensure the development of job skills, growth, accountability and engaged citizenship.

Across the country people with disabilities suffer on average an 80% unemployment rate, but at our farms we start by focusing on ability vs disability. And 40% of our folks are
differently-abled. For some we’re they’re first experience of meaningful and stable employment they’ve been offered. Others, even those with college degrees, often found themselves offered only entry level positions like cleaner or dishwasher.

Vertical Harvest Product and PeopleIn our 7 years of operation we’ve helped employees open bank accounts, sign their first lease, reverse evictions, get their driver’s license, earn back their guardianships and acted as health advocates as employees work to coordinate care across multiple doctors and health systems. These are real outcomes of our Grow Well customized employment program that we’re intensely proud of….

But also, our commitment to our people is an absolute brand differentiator. We like to say people come to the farm because they like our story, but they come back because of the quality of the product. We’re not in this for pity pennies – in fact that would undermine our whole mission to prove that neurodiverse minds, different life experiences and a range of perspectives make for stronger teams. And the fact that we are able to weave a great product and a great purpose together earns us tremendous brand loyalty and love.

Sustainability is a key focus for Vertical Harvest. Can you share some of the sustainable practices and technologies you implement in your operations and how they contribute to reducing environmental impact?

We’re committed to continuous improvement and innovation to enhance our own sustainability and in the indoor ag industry at large. We’re collaborating with the Resource Innovation Institute and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy to create the first of its kind benchmarking report for the CEA sector. This USDA-grant funded program is collecting 4 years of data to inform the strengths and weaknesses of production methods. Additionally, our Wyoming facility acts as an R&D lab to test strategies for maximizing yield, including crop-specific growing and harvesting techniques like optimal lighting, climate controls, rack density and crop transport automation. Our work in that farm has been recognized by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the U.S. Department of Energy for our sustainable approach to natural and supplemental lighting. And then all future “next generation” farms are designed to be 100% electric. We like to say as the grid gets greener, so are we. And we’re always trying for more sustainable sourcing from our suppliers and keep a close eye on new technologies that enter the market.

What’s next for Vertical Harvest?

We have a roadmap for expansion – in addition to Maine opening and Detroit breaking ground next year, we hope to be announcing another 1 – 2 farms as well. Every farm will share some core features (like the Grow Well model and a commitment to prioritizing local), but also with a level of customization so each farm can adapt to the specific needs of the community they’re rooted in.

The needs of local ethnic communities and their culinary heritage is a great example, and we’re already trialing certain herbs and aromatics that are being requested in Maine. So, just as the farm in Jackson is a reflection of our western heritage and abundant outdoor adventure scene, the farm in Westbrook, ME will take on its own personality adapting to its place, space and culture. And of course, that goes for Detroit too and all our future farms as well, because we believe hope lies in the local. We know that real community is built through the tables we set, who we make a place for and the love and care and nourishment that gets mixed into every dish. We’re excited to dig in!

 

About Nona Yehia

An accomplished architect by training, and principal of GYDE Architects in Jackson Hole, WY, Nona designed North America’s first vertical hydroponic greenhouse and founded Vertical Harvest Farms. Alongside her co-founder, Caroline Croft-Estay, Nona pioneered an inclusive, customized employment model for people with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Vertical Harvest grew from Nona’s experiences growing up with a brother with developmental disabilities, love of fresh and local food, obsession with great design, and long-standing community involvement. Nona’s dynamic leadership style has led to recognition as a CNN Champion of Change. She is a Tony Hsieh Award Fellow and a Cities Member on World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council. Vertical Harvest is a 2x finalist for Fast Company’s Best Places to Work for Innovators. Nona graduated from the University of Michigan and earned a Masters degree in architecture from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. She resides in Jackson, WY.

Learn more about Nona and Vertical Harvest —visit the company website.

 

Gotham Greens Expands Into the Southeast With Georgia Greenhouse Opening

NEW YORK, Oct. 11, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Gotham Greens, a Certified B Corporation™ and one of the fastest growing indoor farming brands, today announced the opening of its first high-tech hydroponic greenhouse in the Southeast region and the company’s twelfth greenhouse nationwide. The 210,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility in Monroe, Ga., located between Atlanta and Athens, Ga., is the company’s second of three new greenhouses opening in 2023. The greenhouse will provide a year-round supply of Georgia Grown, fresh produce to retail, restaurant, and foodservice customers throughout the region, including Whole Foods Market, Publix, Harris Teeter, The Fresh Market, and more. This includes new offerings, such as the regionally-inspired Coastal Crunch lettuce and family size packs of the best-selling Butterhead and Gourmet Spring Mix.

“As we celebrate National Farmer’s Day, this expansion into the South is a pivotal moment for Gotham Greens and brings us one step closer to our goal of being able to deliver Gotham Greens fresh produce within a day’s drive from our greenhouses to 90% of consumers across the U.S.” said Viraj Puri, Co-Founder and CEO of Gotham Greens. “Our new Georgia greenhouse is the largest, most technologically advanced we’ve ever built and uses enhanced automation, climate control and data science capabilities to ensure that our greens are not only delicious, but also consistent and reliable for our customers.”

The greenhouse boasts sophisticated new technology to overcome the region’s hot, humid climate and ensure all leafy greens and herbs meet the standard consumers nationwide have come to associate with and expect from the brand. In contrast to traditional open-field farming methods, Gotham Greens farms use up to 90% less water and 97% less land compared to conventional farming methods and provide a consistent and proven way of growing food closer to where people live. While field crops are especially vulnerable to the elements such as heavy rains or drought, the fully closed greenhouse system provides protection and reliability for customers.

“Gotham Greens’ new, state-of-the-art greenhouse facility in Monroe will deploy the latest, cutting-edge agricultural technology, while creating almost 100 jobs in Walton County and providing consumers across Georgia with sustainable, Georgia Grown produce year-round,” said Tyler Harper, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture. “Gotham Greens and the Georgia Grown brand are rooted in the shared values of quality, integrity, and innovation, and we’re proud to welcome them to the great state of Georgia.”

Agriculture is Georgia’s oldest and leading industry, contributing $70 billion to the state’s economy. With increasing high impact weather events, it is essential for the region to embrace new, innovative farming methods and products.

In Georgia, one in nine people face hunger, including one in eight children. Gotham Greens will work with local non-profit partners to help address food insecurity and provide seedlings for community gardens and educational purposes. In 2022, the company donated more than 44,000 pounds of food to families in need and provided more than 27,000 seedling donations for community gardens and educational purposes.

For more information on Gotham Greens, its greenhouses and its products, please visit gothamgreens.com.

ABOUT GOTHAM GREENS
Gotham Greens is an indoor farming company and a fresh food brand on a mission to transform the way we approach our food system, putting people and the planet at the forefront. Gotham Greens produces and delivers long-lasting and delicious leafy greens, herbs, salad dressings, dips, and cooking sauces all year round to retail, restaurant, and foodservice customers. A Certified B Corporation™, Gotham Greens sustainably grows high-quality produce using up to 90% less water and 97% less land than conventional farming through its national network of climate-controlled, high-tech greenhouses across America, including locations in New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, California, Georgia and Texas. Since its launch in 2011, Gotham Greens has grown from a single urban rooftop greenhouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., to one of the largest hydroponic leafy green producers in North America. Gotham Greens products are available in more than 6,500 locations nationwide, including Whole Foods Market, The Kroger Co., Sprouts Farmers Market, Albertsons, Target, The Fresh Market, FreshDirect, AmazonFresh and more. For more information, visit gothamgreens.com.

Where Agriculture Meets Wellness: Q&A With Seed2Source Founder Jennifer Waxman

Jennifer Waxman The Villages GrownAfter successfully guiding The Villages Grown™ to its current position as a vertically integrated, 84-acre total footprint, controlled environment agriculture (CEA), year-round, produce growing operation in Central Florida,  Jennifer Waxman is heading back to her roots.  That is, she’s turning her focus back to Seed2Source, the firm she launched in 2005 driven by her “agriculture meets wellness” passion and vision.

Indoor Ag-Con is thrilled to have Jennifer on our Advisory Board, as a speaker at the upcoming CEA Summit East in Virginia next week , and Indoor Ag-Con in Las Vegas in February 2023.  We had the chance to catch up with this busy CEA industry leader to learn more about her vision and plans in this month’s Q&A

For the last 6 years, you’ve overseen the impressive growth and development of The Villages Grown.  Why was the timing right to leave that post to focus on Seed2Source?

We were given the honor and trust to carry out our vision and model for The Villages Grown. This included the strategic direction, design, construction, and operation of a first-of-kind CEA in the South. We backed this with educational programming from both B2C and B2B. We built a community-based brand yet grew enough product for expansion throughout Florida. We worked with beautiful people in a beautiful community.

However, it is no secret that CEA is only scratching the surface in the US. We knew we wanted to be at the head of the ride with its growth. Several players in the CEA sector were showing intrigue and interest in our model. I believe this was rooted in our ability to build a strong brand, educate, all the while supporting other local farmers along the way.

I’ve learned a lot since entering the hydroponics sector in 2000. This is when I started to conceive this model of holistic wellness and was based on my global travels, thus observing the ‘Future of Food’. There is a lot to share from a rather long career in this sector. I have experienced successes, failures, and have observed overall industry needs and voids. This is the exciting part and I wanted back in!

Share more about Seed2Source, your Sustainable Ag Business Consulting Firm focusing on controlled environment agriculture

Seed2Source launched in 2016 but was really an evolution of my first ‘Agriculture Meets Wellness’ firm which was launched in 2005. Seed2Source is a first-of-kind, Sustainable Agriculture & Wellness, consulting firm headquartered in Florida but serving the US (and beyond). The firm focuses on strategic CEA projects rooted in sustainable agricultural, food-as-medicine, and local food system models.

Our CEA experience includes Vertical Farming, Controlled Greenhouse, Aeroponic and Hydroponic Methodologies, Strategy, Branding, Distribution, Education, Innovation, and Science. We are a one-stop-shop and are surrounded by the best and the brightest in all operational units required for true success. We bring in different consultants as the projects deem fit. This allows us to take on both small and large projects as the market dictates.

At the upcoming CEA Summit, you’ll be speaking on 2 panels, including one titled “Building The Future of CEA”.  If there is one message you hope to get across on that panel discussion what is it?

The CEA industry is still at its infancy and shall evolve with continuous iterations and innovations. Typically, when most people think of CEA, they only think of High-Tech, AI, Automation, etc. and forget about the State of Agriculture in general. I hope people start to realize that CEA is ‘part’ of a solution and not the ‘only’ solution. Also, I hope that people don’t forget about the actual agriculturists and horticulturists that are the true heroes in creating a sustainable, profitable, CEA operation. This seems to be lost with many of the current players in CEA.

You’ll also be speaking at the 2023 edition of Indoor Ag-Con on a great session idea you brought to us, “Building A CEA Alliance:  The Power of Grower Partnerships.” Can you share a little more about this idea?

As it stands, there is little-to-no diversity in US CEA. Everyone is clamoring for funding, market share, and innovations in technology. I believe they are missing a huge opportunity for collaborations, strategic partnerships, and supply chain solutions. We must work together not only for larger supply chain opportunities in both retail and wholesale, but to truly exchange best business practices and the like. We should also be collaborating to keep domestic supply in our own backyard and with prominence. There is enough business to be had for all!

What’s next for you and the team at Seed2Source?  

Our vertically integrated CEA Model, of which we pride ourselves on, was clearly not an overnight success. We are still on this journey. This will continue to be the core of our mission and vision. The Vision – ‘Intersecting Agriculture with Wellness as a Food-As-Medicine Approach’ — will continue to drive our passion and expansion.

We feel strongly that this is the model for success and ultimate operational sustainability. We are being courted by some amazing operations – both new and old players in the CEA space – which has been rewarding. We will continue to build our CEA and overall Domestic Farm Partnerships and Educational Programming.

Learn more about Jennifer and her team at www.seed2source.com 

Q & A With 80 Acres Farms CEO Mike Zelkind

Indoor Ag-Con is excited to announced that 80 Acres Farms Co-Founder & CEO  Mike Zelkind will lead one of the headliner CEO Keynote presentations during our October 4-5, 2021 edition at the Hilton Orlando,Mike Zelkind CEO 80 Acres Farms Indoor Ag-Con Keynote Orlando 2021

Utilizing world-class technology and analytics, 80 Acres Farms offers customers a wide variety of pesticide-free food with a longer shelf life that exceeds the highest food safety standards.  And, this vertical farming leader has been making headlines over the past year in a number of areas — from the opening of a new farm to expanded retail partnerships, new research iniatitives and more.

Ahead of his upcoming Indoor Ag-Con October keynote, we had the chance to catch up with Mike to learn more about his company’s exciting developments AND  his thoughts on the fast-growing indoor farming industry itself.

We’re all very excited for you to share what’s been happening at 80 Acres ‘live and in person’ this October in Orlando at Indoor Ag Con – especially news on your incredible new Hamilton, Ohio facility, which opened in January of this year. How’s everything growing there? Any updates you’d like to share?

80 Acres CEO Keynote at Indoor Ag-Con 2021It’s been a fantastic year for us! We opened our largest automated farm in the Fall of 2020, scaling our technology and production 10x greater than prior. Yield, quality, and efficiencies exceeded expectations out of the gate and allowed us to hit our unit economics.

A few months later, we announced our expanded partnership with Kroger, offering nine products across over 300 stores in 4 different regions.

We were also proud to achieve the Kosher certification for our products, one more tool to communicate our promise of exceptionally high quality to consumers.

Lastly, we were honored to tell the story of 80 Acres Farms on a global stage on the BBC docuseries “Follow the Food.”  It was inspiring to showcase the farms we built in our revitalizing city of Hamilton, OH.

 

Help our readers understand your role as CEO of 80 Acres as well as that of your colleague, Tisha Livingston, and her role as CEO at Infinite Acres?

Tisha and I have been in the food industry for over 30 years each, running manufacturing and operations for some of America’s most-loved brands. We have worked together for more than a decade and decided to leave our careers and start our venture, 80 Acres Farms.Mike Zelkind and Tisha Livingston

We wanted to bring fresh food closer to communities, and we felt indoor farming was the answer. I am 80 Acres Farms CEO and Tisha, President. When we built our first commercial farm, not everything scaled as planned. Luckily, we had a fantastic partner, Priva, that was there to help us work thru the complexities.

80 Acres realized that to scale vertical farming, we had to collaborate with world-class companies, and Infinite Acres was born. We launched Infinite Acres in 2019 with our two partners Ocado, UK’s largest online grocer, and Priva, global leading horticulture innovators.

Tisha became CEO of Infinite Acres and resides in the Netherlands half the time each month. Infinite Acres now oversees the technology involved in building and scaling farms globally.

80 Acres is the preferred operator to create an end-to-end solution for customers. The partnership has strengthened our global presence and ability to scale the technology.

Given some of the big industry news of late regarding companies like AppHarvest, Bowery and others (AeroFarms SPAC), how would you describe what you are seeing in terms of industry growth, over the past say three years?

80 Acres Farm CEO Mike Zelkind Keynote Indoor Ag-con 2021Retailers and consumers have a growing appetite for fresh food grown indoors. Retailers want fresher food with shorter supply chains to significantly reduce supply inefficiencies, inconsistent quality and reduce food waste. In addition, consumers are more aware of how their food is grown and its effect on the environment. Therefore, they want food grown with zero, not fewer, pesticides with the highest nutritional value and grown close to store for longer-lasting freshness.

As for the industry, the technology advancements are maturing, better suited for the environments, and costs are coming down to make getting into the business more attainable and farms’ ability to become profitable.

Breeders are beginning to focus on identifying seed varieties beyond lettuce to find characteristics best suited for indoor environments, increasing yield, flavor, and quality.

The advancements in lighting, robotics, automation, breeding, and standardization have led to scaling. The industry and technology weren’t quite ready before now. The culmination of consumer desires and technology advancements has led to extreme growth for the industry. Together with, the great companies you mention above as well as the many other pioneers, we are reinventing the produce industry.  It’s an exciting time for agriculture!80 Acres Farms

Can you share any updates on research projects you have planned through the new collaborative research agreement 80 Acres has with the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station?

Years ago, we build our R&D facility In Arkansas. Late last year we began upgrading It to become a world class R&D Center of Excellence. Our neighbor, University of Arkansas, Is a logical first partner for the facility, but many more are coming soon. The partnerships we are forming are wholistic.

 

Don’t miss Mike Zelkind’s Indoor Ag-Con Orlando 2021 Keynote Address on Tuesday, October 5 at 11:30 AM
REGISTER TODAY!

 

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.

Indoor Ag-Con, NGA Show May 2021 Co-Location Taps Into Synergies Between Growers & Grocers

Indoor Ag-Con and The NGA Show Co-Location In 2021The NGA Show, the leading trade show and conference for independent grocers, and Indoor Ag-Con, the premier agriculture conference and trade show for the indoor and vertical farming industry, will co-locate in 2021.   The combined event will be held May 16-18, 2021 at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas, NV.   The January 2021  cover story from Supermarket Perimeter  , titled “Redefining Locally Grown Produce With Urban Farming”, shines a spotlight on the synergies and new business opportunities emerging between grocers and indoor growers.   Written by the publication’s managing editor Andy Nelson, the article highlights a number of our industry leaders, including Freight Farms, Gotham Greens and Infarm and starts out:

Supermarket Perimeter January 2021 Cover Story:

Urban farms check a variety of boxes for today’s consumers: locally grown, sustainable, low carbon footprint — not to mention fresh, healthy and tasty.Supermarket Perimeter Highlights Indoor Grower and Grocer synergies

And the COVID pandemic has only made them more attractive, as transportation and logistics created huge headaches for retailers, shippers and everyone in between along the supply chain. Kroger, Whole Foods Market and Safeway are just a few of the big-name US retailers to get on board.

Minneapolis-based North Market installed a Freight Farms hydroponic vertical container farm in the summer of 2020, and the retailer followed that up in December with the decision to power its farm with solar panels connected to its roof.

“Now we have a repurposed shipping container, growing the equivalent of two acres of outdoor growing space, using only five gallons of water a day, entirely powered by solar panels, selling into a grocery store located 50 feet away,” said Ethan Neal, food systems manager for Pillsbury United Communities, the nonprofit organization that funded the farm. “It’s creating some of the highest quality produce available in a neighborhood that was considered one of the largest food deserts in the state of Minnesota.”

Read the full article from Supermarket Perimeter, visit the publication website here.