80 Acres Farms is expanding operations and has its sights trained on a new product: strawberries.
Sweet and low-down to the ground, strawberries get hosed down with pesticides because they attract so many bugs. Since vertical farm 80 Acres grows produce indoors in bug-free controlled environments without pesticides, company officials said it's a no-brainer for them to begin cultivation. Company officials hope they make a big splash in Greater Cincinnati when the delicate product hits area stores shelves this winter.
"It's definitely a game-changer because strawberries are a pain point for consumers," said Rebecca Haders, the company's vice president of marketing. That little red fruit could mean a big bunch of green for 80 Acres – and provide the best showcase yet for the young company's whole business model.
The company's name comes from its first indoor farm that was a little bigger than a typical Olive Garden. That modest 12,000 square foot facility generated the same amount of crops as a small 80-acre farm (that's an area about 3½ times the indoor size of the Kenwood Towne Centre in suburban Cincinnati).
Todd Steele, 80 Acres' vice president of business development and sales, said the company is "approaching profitability" through distribution deals with Kroger. He noted a new 70,000-square-foot farm that came online last fall will keep Kroger customers in lettuce, basil and other fresh produce. It will generate about 10 million servings a year. "It allows us to grow and provide products at a price people can afford," Steele said.
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