Vertical farms expand as demand for year-round produce grows

A recently constructed 95,000-square-foot warehouse in Compton, Calif., ticks off all the boxes for the booming storage industry: 32-foot-high ceilings, a secure truck court and access to truck routes. But it won’t be used for cargo or storage. Plenty Unlimited, an agricultural start-up, is using the site for an indoor vertical farm, expected to open later this year.

At a time when supply chain disruptions continue to slow distribution, consumers embrace healthy eating habits and climate change is expected to affect crop yields, a practice known as controlled-environment agriculture, including indoor vertical farms relying on artificial light and technology, is attracting venture capitalists.

Scientists caution that technology has limitations, with LED lights, sensors and operating systems adding to utility costs. “They don’t want to be warehouses, they want to be food production facilities,” Professor Giacomelli said. “And food production facilities have never had this kind of money.”

Details are hard to come by because the farms closely guard their intellectual property, growing system designs, material and structures. “Everyone has their own secret sauce,” said Brent de Jong, chairman and chief executive of Agrico Acquisition Corporation, which in January announced a merger with Kalera.But as long as the building being used as a vertical farm meets height criteria and avoids high utility costs, “there’s no limit where I can put a farm,” said Austin Martin, Kalera’s chief operating officer.

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