By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
HAMILTON, Ohio — “Incredibly flavorful,” and “a fresh taste, that’s how Hamilton’s City Manager Joshua Smith and Mayor Pat Moeller, respectively, describe the greens from 80 Acres Farms, which is developing two facilities in their city.
Those greens were grown without sunlight or soil, using 97 percent less water and yielding 100 times more than traditional farming, and using no pesticides.
80 Acres is an indoor farming company that grows quality fruits and vegetables in an energy efficient, modular environment. Co-founders Mike Zelkind, CEO, and Tisha Livingston, President, started the company in October 2016. Both had spent most of their careers working in the food industry and wanted to start something that would make a difference in their community, to provide affordable, fresh, local food in “food deserts.”
“They decided to start their own company and were interested in creating something that was quite a disruption,” Haders said. “They see that the supply chain is cumbersome and it’s not doing us any benefit by being able to eat whatever we want to all year long. There is quite a cost we pay with food traveling and with how food is grown.”
The business partners hired a chief engineer and his team to start developing technology for grow-zones in this country, Haders said. They started the first farm in Daphne, Alabama, and that’s where the company does research and development.
“We grow in two different ways.,” Haders said. “We grow modularly in containers, such as a repurposed trailer, and then we also grow inside buildings. We bought an abandoned building in Spring Grove, about five miles out of Cincinnati …. We have two separate grown zones inside the building. One is for leafy greens, and it stacks four high, and the other room is the first commercially grown, fully enclosed tomato room.”
Currently, the Cincinnati farm sells out every week. The company propagates leafy greens in two weeks and then puts them under lights for two weeks. They can grow a head of lettuce in about 30 days.
“We pack our produce and put it in our cooler, and that next morning it is delivered to stores across town,” Haders said. “So it is less than a day old. Our business model is to create farms and services in communities.”
Right now 25 miles is the furthest distance the company is servicing. They might go out to 100 but if there is a demand 400 miles away then they might build another farm in that location, she explained
“Their technology is cutting-edge,” Smith said. “We’re very excited about being the epicenter of this type of urban farming Hamilton, Ohio, because it is the very near future. It is going to be a solution not only for people within the United States but I believe for people across the entire global footprint in terms of producing food at an accelerated pace.”
In Hamilton 80 Acres has a large building in downtown they are repurposing, Smith said. The second project is in the city’s industrial park. The downtown facility should be producing greens by the third quarter of 2019.
“Their produce is outstanding, and with traditional kale crop, you might be able to get one, possibly two crops in a calendar year,” Smith said.“They can get 17 crops and with a smaller footprint indoors.”
Said Moeller: “80 Acres and its controlled-environment farming has brought a great amount of excitement and development to Hamilton. Its benefit to “produce challenged” regions has tremendous potential.”