On a sunny day last August, Daniel Malechuk opened the door to a 77,000-square-foot warehouse just outside Atlanta. Inside, under the soft magenta glow of LED lights, grew five varieties of hydroponic lettuce stacked nine levels high. A handful of employees were busy harvesting the greens. Their pace matched Malechuk’s ambition: to grow 10 million heads of lettuce by next spring.
If they succeed, Kalera, the vertical farming company that began operations in April 2021, will not only have the largest-yield vertical farm in the Southeast but will also be Georgia’s largest lettuce producer.
“The single largest hurdle facing the industry is that it uses a huge amount of electricity,” said Julia Kurnik, director of innovation startups at the World Wildlife Fund. She said vertical farming involves a series of economic and environmental tradeoffs. “It may not make sense everywhere, but if you’re in, say, the Middle East, and you don’t have much land but you can use renewable [solar] energy to power your farm, this may be a huge boon.” She said the source of the energy is crucial to determining the net environmental impact.
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