A one-time steel factory, a former paintball facility and a vacant nightclub have all been converted to take on a surprising new life: vertical farming.
A New Jersey company is repurposing property as it pioneers the growing use for industrial real estate — agriculture — often in urban warehouse areas not known for cultivating crops. That business, AeroFarms, is expanding this year nationally and internationally with large new construction projects in Virginia and the Middle East.
AeroFarms, with its global headquarters in downtown Newark, the largest city in New Jersey, plans to invest an estimated $55 million on a 150,000-square-foot vertical farm in a large industrial park in Danville, Virginia. That will be the company’s 10th vertical farm and will be double the size of its last major commercial facility in the Garden State.
AeroFarms also recently announced it will be constructing a 90,000-square-foot vertical farm dedicated to state-of-the-art research and development, and working toward the commercialization of local crops using the company’s technology, in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
There are several scientific methods to raise crops in indoor vertical farms, or plant factories, as Kale Harbick, a research scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, calls them. AeroFarms, with investors including Goldman Sachs and Prudential, uses a proprietary aeroponic growing system to cultivate lettuce and other leafy greens.
Instead of using soil outdoors, AeroFarms grows plants in trays, misting their suspended roots with water, oxygen and nutrients. The method uses up to 95% less water than traditional farming, yields a lot of food in a small amount of space, doesn’t employ pesticides and means crops can be harvested year-round. Read more here.