In another milestone moment for Newark-based AeroFarms, the world’s leader in indoor vertical farming held a groundbreaking Thursday for a 136,000-square-foot facility in Danville, Virginia, a city of approximately 43,000 people near the North Carolina border in the central part of the state.
AeroFarms officials say the facility, which is scheduled to become operational in the second quarter of 2022, will be the largest and most technologically advanced aeroponic indoor vertical farm in the world. They are calling it a next-generation Model 5 farm.
Strategically located in close proximity to more than 1,000 food retailers in the region, the Danville farm will provide access to approximately 50 million people located within a day’s drive.
Company officials say the new farm will advance AeroFarms’ leadership in plant science and technology and expand its leafy greens business to the mid-Atlantic region with brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce partners, building upon existing relationships that include Whole Foods Market, ShopRite, Baldor, Amazon Fresh and FreshDirect.
AeroFarms co-founder and CEO David Rosenberg said the new facility will be a difference-maker.
“This new facility represents an inflection point in our growth trajectory as we scale our technology and expand our retail distribution footprint and customer reach,” he said.
“Danville-Pittsylvania County is the perfect location to introduce our next-generation Model 5 farm that will be able to serve the more than 1,000 food retailers in the region.
“Our new farm will deepen our established retailer partnerships even further and make our sustainably grown, pesticide-free and always fresh leafy greens available throughout the mid-Atlantic region, while also creating high-quality jobs in the area.”
The Danville farm will feature AeroFarms’ proprietary and cutting-edge agSTACK technology, creating a fully connected and digitally controlled farm that integrates hardware, automation, intelligent controls and sensors, machine learning, machine vision, supervisory control, and data acquisition and manufacturing execution systems to create a powerful data loop.
By collecting and analyzing data through its 26 crop turns per year, Rosenberg said AeroFarms’ team of engineers, plant scientists and programmers gather insights about plants, and apply these learnings for the continuous improvement of its farms, which yield annual productivity up to 390 times greater than traditional field farming, while using up to 95% less water and zero pesticides.
“The science, technology and innovation that underpin our platform allows us to drive superior unit economics and scale up our business to deliver on our mission of growing the best plants possible for the betterment of humanity,” Rosenberg said. “Our customers love our leafy greens, which consistently win on quality, flavor, taste and texture. We are excited to break ground on our new farm, expand our retail presence in the region and bring our exceptional, great-tasting products to more customers.”
Bettina Ring, the secretary of agriculture and forestry in Virginia, said the state is happy to welcome AeroFarms.
“Innovation and new technologies have always been the driving forces behind the success of Virginia’s largest private sector industry, agriculture,” she said. “By choosing to establish their largest production facility to date here in the commonwealth, AeroFarms is ensuring that Virginia is a leader in indoor vertical farming.”