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Part 2

Creating agtech campuses in Kansas that use renewable energy

Previously, Kansas Freedom Farms, a technology company based in Overland Park, Kansas announced its plans to build multiple state-of-the-art agtech “campuses” as commercial real estate developments across the state. Planned for 2021 to 2026, the construction will typically occur in five phases with each including an equivalent of 10 acres of production “under glass” through controlled environment agriculture (CEA). 

Lenny and constituents strongly advocate for sustainable energy and plans to install solar panels and patented technology for “solar trackers”. The company is looking into the possibility of raising native grass-fed bison and buffalo near the campus for lean meat products that are popular domestically as well as internationally.

"We believe markets overseas will be very receptive to all-natural bison and buffalo that eat hydroponic fodder," says Lenny Geist, CEO and manager. "We are conducting due diligence on how to penetrate foreign markets with high-quality products that we can fly from either McPherson or Salina to international destinations. To this point, our findings are quite favorable.”    

In addition to all-natural hydroponic food production, energy generation, and establishing water autonomy for the high-tech platform, Kansas Freedom Farms hopes to include housing, administrative offices, classrooms, commercial spaces, and medical facilities on the campus.  

Lenny said, “I echo and support what Dr. Rick Machen of Texas A&M University said. Dr. Machen, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service Animal & Natural Resource Management Specialist, stated: “The key to grass-fed beef production is sustainable quantity and quality of forage to grow and finish cattle in a timely manner.  Periods of forage dormancy and limited availability often result in cattle being 24 to 28 months old before they finally get to a finished harvest weight and level of fatness, and time is money.”  In the article, Dr. Machen articulated: “If pasture availability is fixed, moving from traditional cow/calf (calves sold or transferred at weaning) to grass-finishing beef requires a significant reduction in cow inventory to allow forage for the growing/finishing operation. 

The economic trade-off between fewer cows and marketing grass-fed beef must be considered.”  Geist’s idea to grow fodder on site solves those problems as well as many others.  His original and sustainable “ag tech campus” model includes the ability to use ground-mount solar trackers elevated above pasture lands to capture alternative energy, cast shade to protect the animals during extreme heat, and flip inward to face the earth to protect animals from hail and severe weather. The solar modules have been tested favorably against hurricane-force winds of 200+ mph and 5-pound hailstones. Additionally, his cutting-edge operations will include large, enclosed spaces with moderate temperature control where animals can seek refuge during extreme cold such as those recently experienced throughout the US.

The company’s project would cost an estimated $150,000,000 (USD) with about 20% of the investment in the form of private capital contributions that can be provided through energy-related Investment Tax Credits (ITC) such as the Solar Investment Tax Credit (SITC). Geist likes to point out that using the ITC for clean energy production and sustainability enterprises is a great way to reach ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) investment objectives. He notes the ITC can be “stacked” with New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) as well as Food Desert subsidies and QOZ (Qualified Opportunity Zone) entitlements. Geist says this is a powerful financing mix that Kansans should be taking advantage of while incentives are available to help reinvigorate rural economies.

Lenny estimates a large agtech campus will create 500+ full-time, good-paying jobs as well as 300 indirect jobs plus 200 incidental jobs using the state’s Department of Commerce definitions and guidelines. This many workers will be needed to maximize the entity’s sustainability footprint and eclipse production goals. Lenny noted there are commercial vertical farms in America now that are producing over 1 million pounds of fresh produce per acre perennially with some forecasting they will be able to climb to 2 million pounds soon. Geist believes his group will exceed those standards as his operations will include two-story and three-story structures with multiple hydroponic trays or growing towers on each floor that will enable his indoor farmers to grow voluminous amounts consistently.

Lenny noted, “There are large-scale commercial producers in Europe and now in the US that are exceeding 1 million pounds of agriculture production per acre while meeting USDA Organic standards, which bring higher commodity prices. My vision to have two-story, three-story, and even taller CEA structures will allow us to go well past 2 million pounds and likely 3 million. Once these amounts are achieved, we could see a range of $5M to $10M in revenue per acre a year.” 

For more information:
Kansas Freedom Farms / TSO Greenhouses
Lenny Geist, CEO and manager