The 'next generation' farm is already growing in Florence
With climate change making growing seasons unpredictable, water drying up around the globe and food deserts increasing, a growing number of people think indoor vertical farming is the solution.
80 Acres Farms co-founders Mike Zelkind and Tisha Livingston are among them. They started their indoor vertical farming business in 2015 in Spring Grove Village. In 2019, they moved to Hamilton. They officially opened their eighth farm in Florence Wednesday.
The Next Generation Farm
Zelkind calls Florence the “Next Generation Farm” because “everything we have learned from our Hamilton facility we codified into the next design."
"This facility can grow a variety of different crops and it produces them faster and better,” he says.
Even though the Florence farm is just three times bigger than Hamilton, it can produce four to five times the amount of product.
More precise automation can grow leafy greens and herbs better than before. They also use data analytics and have automated light, water and harvesting down to a science through a partnership with Siemens.
Before a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Siemens President of Smart Infrastructure Ruth Gratzke said, “We’re able to help 80 Acres predict planned growth under a lot of different conditions and optimize, ultimately, the future of farming.”
WVXU took a tour in February of the Hamilton Plant, one 80 Acres calls “the least sophisticated and least ambitious farm we’ll ever build again.”
"Technology and software are doing a lot more of the work, so we're ready to start scaling the farms a lot faster. We can copy and paste and integrate the improvements," Zelkind says.
Companies and countries are taking notice. Zelkind says people have visited the farm from four continents. For example, the president of the Bahamas toured the Hamilton plant in 2022 to talk about food security solutions.
80 Acres is looking to expand its products and technology nationally and globally. While it says it doesn't think vertical farming will solve world hunger, it is part of the solution.