When you look at two packages of greens in the produce aisle, you can’t see the whole story behind how they were grown. One mix might have traveled thousands of miles, and while it looks great now, it may soon be wilted. The other, if you are lucky enough to have produce available from 80 Acres Farms, could be grown in a neighboring community, using renewable energy and advanced technology that allows it to grow indoors year-round.
80 Acres Farms has been innovating farming for more than five years, starting in Cincinnati and recently opening a large production facility in Hamilton.
“The City of Hamilton has great water, great clean renewable energy, a great labor pool and great distribution points to many markets,” says Mike Zelkind, CEO of 80 Acres Farms.
Hamilton receives power from a hydroelectric dam. Renewable energy was a valuable draw for 80 Acres Farms, since it relies on electricity to power its LED grow lights. The facility can grow at least 10 million servings of produce a year, while also providing a model for what they hope will be a widespread adoption of their technology.
Indoor farming requires a lot of research to create the ‘recipe’ of nutrients, water, air, light and time that works for a given fruit or vegetable. The plants benefit from being untethered from factors like weather, disease, pests and high shipping costs.
The indoor grow system at 80 Acres Farms doesn’t depend on a particular season or climate. Instead, it relies on the precise calibration of equipment to adjust temperature, humidity and other variables. Cameras note any changes and send alerts if a crop requires tending.
“We can react quickly and make adjustments. All of those data points are a constant feedback loop, helping us hammer out the perfect conditions without touching any plants or introducing pests,” says Rebecca Haders, vice president of creative and marketing at 80 Acres Farms. “It becomes much more predictable and we know what to expect.”
Their farms operate 24/7 with the help of robotic systems that move the plants through different phases of growth.
“Robotics help us eliminate many traditional back-breaking, repetitive-motion jobs and provide the highest quality produce at affordable prices,” explains Mike. “Artificial Intelligence enables our team to find the perfect recipes to grow the tastiest, healthiest produce.”
80 Acres Farms hopes their model can be used in areas where traditional agriculture is challenging.
“We’re putting together a robust protocol and playbook to really enable us to replicate what we’re doing today and all we’ve learned about building and operating the farm. We’re creating an almost foolproof method for going in and getting into business quite quickly anywhere in the world,” says Rebecca.
80 Acres Farms already reduces water waste, nutrient use and energy needs, but they never stop innovating.
“We’ve just introduced a new package that reduces our plastic use by 50%,” says Rebecca. “We’re always trying to improve; we want to keep moving forward!”
You can find 80 Acres Farms products in area Kroger, Whole Foods and Jungle Jim’s stores. Find a full list of retailers at80AcresFarms.com.
Benefits of indoor farming:
Less food waste. Produce is delivered a short distance at peak freshness, lasting longer in your refrigerator.
Less water. A closed-loop hydroponic system uses 97% less water than typical agriculture.
Less land. 300 times more produce is grown on the same land footprint, since growth cycles repeat back-to-back, multiple times a year.