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Vertical Farming: Feeding evolving demand

vertical farm 80 acres farms indoor farming
An 80 Acres vertical farm.

Another recent addition to the vertical farming scene is 80 Acres Farms, a Hamilton, OH-based operation started in 2015 by current CEO Mike Zelkind and business partner Tisha Livingston.

“We’re changing the way the world eats, starting here in the Midwest,” says Zelkind. “My business partner and I spent decades in the food industry—working for the likes of Conagra, Chiquita, and Del Monte—before we founded 80 Acres.”

Running operations for companies that fed millions, Zelkind says the pair became aware of the crucial questions faced by the global food supply chain, headed by the challenges of feeding a growing population as fertile farmland continues to be lost and “millions of pounds of produce” are needlessly wasted each year.

In vertical farming, he stresses, they found a new kind of farming that offers a means of growing produce anywhere in the world—in efficient, indoor farms that use less land and fewer resources.

Although greens have been central to 80 Acres’ business, Zelkind says they recognized from day one the need to “move beyond the salad bowl.”

While the firm’s current range includes salad blends, microgreens, tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers, its Arkansas-based R&D team is collaborating with breeders worldwide.

One example is a recently announced partnership with the University of Arkansas, renowned for its blackberry breeding program. This will augment 80 Acres’ current output, since the grower was already active in strawberries, with its first batches due to hit store shelves in this spring.

Zelkind says the 80 Acres flagship facility in Hamilton is on track to produce 10 million servings of produce a year, as part of an operation that can produce up to 300 times as much produce per square foot as traditional farms, using 95 percent less water.

This is an excerpt from the Applied Technology feature in the March/April 2022 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.