Whole Foods Supplier Embraces Robotic Farming

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To supply retailers such as Whole Foods and U.S. Foods with greens, 80 Acres Farms is constructing a “fully automated indoor farm.” The project’s reported cost is in the range of $10 million to $15 million, CNBC reported.

“With the … facility, we will achieve the next-generation of indoor vertical farming,” 80 Acres Farms’ CEO and co-founder, Mike Zelkind said. “This project will deliver our proof of concept that indoor farming can be fully automated, commercially scalable, higher-yielding, and profitable.”

The first phase of construction will bring grow centers that can make products such as kale, culinary herbs and microgreens. Then, three more phases could follow. In all, the facility could grow to over 150,000 square feet — or roughly 3.5 acres.

Another vertical farming company, Smallhold, works sort of like a nursery to expedite the growing process. The company grows the produce — mushrooms, at the moment — three-quarters of the way. Then it delivers the almost-grown produce to their customers, who finish growing the fungi in their vertical growing units. The company also helps customers create the right growing conditions with WiFi enabled units that allow Smallhold to monitor and control them remotely. As a result, customers simply have to pick and serve the produce.

Smallhold’s farms also reduce the environmental impact of growing produce. Their farming units reportedly create 40 times the output per square foot compared to a traditional farm, and use 96 percent less water, according to the company.

Smallhold is not the only urban farming concept in the U.S. Boston-based agricultural tech company Freight Farms grows produce inside of shipping containers. One freight farm can grow approximately two acres worth of produce, according to the company, and that can either be sold direct to consumers (D2C) or through partnerships with local distributors, restaurants and grocery stores.