Agtech company AeroFarms has paved the way for the next generation of farming with an April 29 groundbreaking ceremony for its second commercial indoor vertical farm, in Danville-Pittsylvania County, Va. The farm is strategically located near more than 1,000 food retailers in the region.
Coming online in the second quarter of 2022, AeroFarms said that the 136,000-square-foot Model 5 farm will be the largest and most technologically advanced aeroponic indoor vertical farm in the world. It will feature AeroFarms’ proprietary 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 (SCADA), and manufacturing execution systems to create a powerful data loop. By collecting and analyzing data through 26 crop turns per year, AeroFarms’ team of engineers, plant scientists and programmers gathers insights about plants, and applies 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 allow 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,” said David Rosenberg, co-founder and CEO of AeroFarms. “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.”
The Danville farm will help expand the leafy greens business with brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce partners, building upon existing relationships that include Whole Foods Market, ShopRite, Baldor, Amazon Fresh and FreshDirect. The close proximity to food retailers in the region will allow the new farm to provide access to approximately 50 million people located within a day’s drive.
Rosenberg continued: “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. 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.”
Elected officials from Pittsylvania County and the city of Danville, along with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture Bettina Ring, and other state and community leaders, joined AeroFarms representatives for the groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the new construction.
“We congratulate AeroFarms on launching construction of its state-of-the-art facility in Cane Creek Centre,” said Northam. “The commonwealth’s history is rooted in agribusiness, and the completion of the world’s largest and most advanced indoor vertical farm will enhance this booming industry. We thank AeroFarms for choosing southern Virginia, and look forward to supporting its success.”
“Innovation and new technologies have always been the driving forces behind the success of Virginia’s largest private-sector industry, agriculture,” said Ring. “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."
Meanwhile, AeroFarms entered into an agreement and plan of merger with Spring Valley Acquisition Corp. in March. Upon closing of the transaction, AeroFarms will become publicly traded on Nasdaq under the new ticker symbol "ARFM."
Since 2004, AeroFarms has been leading the way for indoor vertical farming, enabling local production to safely grow year-round. The Certified B Corporation company recently received its certificate of occupancy for expansion of its global headquarters in Newark, N.J. To support its corporate expansion, AeroFarms recently completed the buildout of an additional 25,000 square feet at its headquarters for new office space and more expansive R&D and Innovation Centers of Excellence.
The first national certified-organic grocer, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods has more than 500 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The grocer is No. 24 on The PG 100 list, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while its parent company, Seattle-based Amazon, is No. 2 on PG’s list. ShopRite is a registered trademark of Keasbey, N.J.-based retailer-owned cooperative Wakefern Food Corp. With nearly 280 ShopRite supermarkets located throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland, ShopRite serves millions of customers each week. Wakefern is No. 25 on The PG 100.