When FarmedHere, an indoor vertical farm located in suburban Chicago, opened last week, it became the world's largest of its kind with 90,000 square feet of space under its roof. CEO Jolanta Hardej, a former mortgage broker and interior designer, worked her way up to this current large facility, opening first a 4,000-square-foot indoor farm and then a 10,000-square-foot one. Her newest farm cleverly integrates aquaponics into the agricultural flow, using tanks of tilapia fish to clean water and provide fertilizer for the soilless aeroponic crops.
Hardej is projecting that the FarmedHere farm will eventually pump out 1 million pounds a year of organic greens like basil, lettuce, mint, and spinach while providing hundreds of local jobs. FarmedHere got some help getting started with a $100,000 loan from Whole Foods, which speaks well of future potential distribution channels.
I've always been a little skeptical about proposed designs for skyscraper vertical farms and still doubt that the model will ever prove economically viable, but the kind of space that FarmedHere repurposed — a large multi-story warehouse — seems like a natural fit for the concept. If FarmedHere can prove that the model works, we could see similar schemes pop up all over the place. This will be interesting to watch.
Check out this news report from Chicago's ABC7: