US (VA): How two Alexandria brothers transformed an abandoned data center into an indoor farm

A farm replacing a data center in Northern Virginia — is that even possible? This reversal of development trends happened in September when Beanstalk Farms, the brainchild of Alexandria brothers Mike and Jack Ross, opened at what was an abandoned data center in downtown Herndon.

Beanstalk is no ordinary farm. Named after the “Jack and the Beanstalk” fairy tale the siblings’ mother read to them as children, it uses a new method of high-density, highly automated indoor agriculture that yields hyper-fresh, nutritious produce that can be delivered within 24 hours of harvest.

As an indoor vertical farm, Beanstalk grows crops in rows of shallow trays to allow for more efficient use of the facility’s dimensions. To do so, the brothers use a system they designed known as a “growing tower.” The nine-level, 100-foot-wide, 24-foot-deep apparatus, which CEO Mike Ross calls “the world’s largest vending machine,” operates vertically and horizontally to lower plants from the stacked shelves for workers to harvest, package, and deliver. The farm currently operates one tower, but they plan to add two more.

The elder Ross, 31, says the operation is 200 times more productive than traditional farms. Beanstalk can grow more than 100 acres worth of produce on just a half-acre of land while using 90 percent less water.


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