World’s largest indoor vertical farm planned for construction in US

1 Feb 2022

Indoor aquaponic farming company Upward Farms is aiming high with its new project to open the world’s largest indoor vertical farming plant in early 2023. The 250,000-square-foot (six-acre) facility will be two to four times the size of the next largest operational vertical farms, the company said in a release.

When this new vertical farming facility comes online next year, it will begin by selling its products in the northeastern states of the U.S. However, the company plans to continue its expansion across the U.S. “and beyond” as it works to combat the environmental strains associated with contemporary agriculture. In the U.S. 90% of the country's leafy greens — which is Upward Farm’s flagship product — are grown on the West Coast and distributed nationwide. Upward Farms is aiming to produce this perishable produce closer to where consumers are purchasing it.

World’s largest indoor vertical farm planned for construction in US
Courtesy of Upward Farms

“Farming is one of the sectors that’s both highly exposed to the perils of climate change and one of its key drivers,” said Jason Green, CEO and Cofounder of Upward Farms in a statement. “With this new facility, we’ll be able to reach some of the most populous areas of the U.S., and nearly 100 million Americans, within a single day of distribution versus the week it can take to receive products from the West Coast.”

Not only will this vertical farming facility increase consumer proximity to leafy greens, but it will also provide people with access to fresh seafood. To fertilize the greens it is growing, the vertical farm facilities include tanks filled with hybrid striped bass. These fish are not only key to the biodiversity of the indoor ecosystem, which the farm operator says is key for scalability, but they are also harvested as a food source. Just last month, the vertical farm operator debuted its hybrid freshwater fish in retail and restaurants nearby its headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.

Despite the scale of this mega-farm, Upward Farms says that its environmental footprint will be small, conserving more than 100 million gallons of water and more than 120 acres of land on an annual basis as well as eliminating 1.7 million food transportation miles per year. These resource savings are similar to what Upward Farms says it is able to do at its two other vertical farming facilities in Brooklyn.

Global vertical farming is a $5.5 billion category and is expected to reach $19.86 billion by 2026, according to market researcher BIS. However, while Upward Farms has expressed interest in expanding within this segment, and even raised $121 million last year to help them meet that goal, the vertical farm company said that it is specifically targeting the $10 billion U.S. packaged salad market in the near term. To accomplish this, the company said that it would focus on its R&D in order to push its production to “industry-leading commercial yields” that are “four to five times” that of its peers.

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