The nation's largest indoor organic farm is now churning out greens and herbs to supply the Chicago area with fresh, local produce. FarmedHere recently opened up a new aquaponic and aeroponic farm in a 90,000 square foot post-industrial building in Bedford Park, IL. They grow arugala, basil, mint and other micro greens, which are then sold in Whole Foods stores in the city. We've been writing about indoor vertical farms for years and now they really do exist!
FarmedHere has been growing greens in the Chicago area since 2011 and has a 10,000-square-foot facility in Flanagan and a 4,000-square-foot one in Englewood, IL. Jolanta Hardej, the CEO and co-founder of the company, used to be an interior designer and a mortgage broker, but had the vision for the farm after the market collapse in 2008. The new 90,000 square foot facility in Bedford Park, to the southwest of Chicago is just a nondescript warehouse from the outside, but on the inside, it’s a lean, mean growing machine.
By using vertical farming stacking, aquaponics and aeroponics, they’ve got 150,000 square feet of growing space — almost 3.5 acres. Aquaponics produces organic herbs like basil and other greens and supports raising tilapia, while the aeroponics produces leafy greens like arugala and watercress. There are six shelves of plants growing at one time that are tended to by workers using lifts. Water is also highly conserved and according to Hardej, they use only 3 percent of the water that traditional agriculture uses, plus it’s all recycled.
Urban farming also has a number of other benefits, like employing local workers and reducing transportation and shipping. The company also hires local youths in an urban agricultural training program through Windy City Harvest. FarmedHere was awarded its USDA Organic Certification at the end of 2012 and the new facility was in part funded by Whole Foods, the farm’s largest customer. Besides Whole Foods, FarmedHere products are sold at Chicago-area Mariano’s locations, Green Grocer, and possibly soon at Trader Joe’s and Meijer.