Nation’s First Fully Automated Vertical Farm Breaks Ground in Ohio
Cincinnati-based 80 Acres Farms announced that it plans to build a large, fully automated indoor farm in Hamilton, OH, which will produce specialty greens to supply local independent retailers including Jungle Jim’s International Market and Dorothy Lane Markets, and national chain locations for Whole Foods and U.S. Foods.
The facility would be the first of its kind in the nation, according to 80 Acres. A groundbreaking was held for one of two facilities on Monday, Sept. 24. An MSNBC article stated the project would cost between $10 million and $15 million initially, and create 40 jobs would be created, which would average in the $40,000 to $50,000 range including benefits. The city discounted land in Hamilton Enterprise park for the project and is providing an Enterprise Zone property tax abatement of 75% for 10 years, MSNBC reported.
80 Acres Farms personnel will manage the facilities, which will feature robotics, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and around-the-clock monitoring sensors and control systems to optimize every aspect of growing produce indoors. The Cincinnati firm will work with its current technology partners, Signify, an LED horticultural lighting company, and Priva, which provides environmental controls and process management software, according to Tisha Livingston, President and Co-founder of 80 Acres.
The initial phase, which is to be completed later this year, will feature grow centers to produce microgreens, culinary herbs, leafy greens, and kale. Three additional phases are planned. When completed, the indoor farm is to encompass more than 150,000 square feet, which equates to nearly 3.5 acres.
The full-phase expansion of controlled environmental agriculture will enable 80 Acres Farms to provide more product to serve existing customers and new ones with fresh-picked, year-round produce. 80 Acres Farms now serves Cincinnati-area customers from its facility in Spring Grove, where it grows microgreens, culinary herbs, leafy lettuce, kale, and vine crops such as cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.
“We already have demonstrated that we can provide to our customers the freshest, best-tasting and nutritious locally grown produce, while using renewable energy, very little water, and no pesticides,” said Mike Zelkind, CEO and co-founder of 80 Acres Farms in a September 21 release. “With the Hamilton facility, we will achieve the next-generation of indoor vertical farming. This project will deliver our proof of concept that indoor farming can be fully automated, commercially scalable, higher-yielding, and profitable. It will serve as a prototype for our ambitious plans to co-locate similar facilities with commercial customers in other parts of the country.”
Zelkind said 80 Acres Farms will work with partners such as JDL Warm Construction and Open Architecture Inc., both of downtown Cincinnati. Site Solutions Consulting of Loveland will do excavation site preparation work.
80 Acres Farms is headquartered in the Spring Grove community of Cincinnati, where the company was founded in 2015 by Zelkind and Livingston, both veteran food industry executives. It now employs more than 60 people in Cincinnati and other company research and development, engineering, and production facilities in three other states. In its mission to locally grow the best tasting, most nutritious fruits and vegetables, the company partners in research with many agrotechnology and academic research institutions.