Chicago’s FarmedHere plans to expand vertical indoor farming to 20 new locations across the US
Indoor agriculture refers to an increasingly popular form of crop cultivation that happens inside, making it less of a traditional farm and more of a manufacturing facility. Where traditional farms rely on irrigation systems, soil and sunlight, indoor farms use LEDs or high pressure sodium lamps, and grow in hydroponic or aeroponic systems. Without bugs, proponents say, pesticides can be reduced and the overall product is not only more controlled but healthier.
Serious indoor agriculture used to be reserved for people who were into black lights and excessive incense burning, but the times are definitely changing. Now, a number of savvy business folk are investing in vertical indoor farming as a means of serious food production. One such startup, FarmedHere, hopes to lead the charge to turn us all into farmers. We’ve written about the company’s efforts in the past, but the new CEO Matt Matros has plans for the future that could bring vertical indoor farming to every corner of the country.
Matros stepped into the CEO role earlier this year, and he has ambitious plans for the startup.FarmedHere currently runs a 90,000-square-foot facility in Bedford Park, and Matros is planning to open as many as 20 new facilities across the U.S. that would each serve consumers within a 200-mile radius. He sees the vertical farming movement as the answer to the imminent challenge of feeding the world’s growing population. “Everything about this business is good, and it solves a really big problem,” Matros told the Chicago Tribune in a July interview. “We’re going to have nine billion people in the world by 2050. What are we going to feed them?”
Indoor farming has a lot of perks. In a climate-controlled environment, ‘farmers’ don’t have to become weather forecasting experts. Light, temperature, moisture, and nutrients are all carefully managed in an aquaponics system that feels a lot more like a laboratory than a field. Given the continued decline in bee populations that threatens traditional agriculture, alternative methods of food production are becoming more valuable than ever.
FarmedHere has been supplying its products – mostly greens and herbs – to Chicago area retailers and restaurants since 2011. Expanding to new locations will help serve commercial and retail consumers in new markets, but Matros also wants to enable hobbyist growers to produce more food in their homes. “Each farm is fully modular. I joke that each farm is like a LEGO block and you just need to drop it wherever you want to put a farm,” Matros told the Guardian. “We have these LEGO boxes and we know how they work and we just have to put them together and drop them.”