How a Hydroponics Startup is Bringing Farms to Tables Everywhere


A perfect tomato tastes like summer. Juicy, warm, full of sunshine. There’s something so pure and fulfilling about a tomato just pulled from the vine. Now imagine if every tomato you ate was like that.

When you buy your produce from the store—even if it’s “local, organic” produce—it’s impossible to get that just-picked-this-morning sweetness. As with all plants, fruits and vegetables grow in seasons; if you want strawberries in winter, you’ll have to eat ones that were cultivated thousands of miles away.

Growing, packaging, and shipping food in the off-season means two things: reduced flavor, and an increased carbon footprint.

80 Acres Farms prefers to do things the other way around.

Managed by a coalition of engineers and farmers, 80 Acres Farms has developed compact, highly efficient vertical hydroponics technology that will allow cities to grow fresh food 365 days a year.
Each closed-loop system is built inside a 40-foot steel shipping container—which can be easily transported without damaging the vegetation inside. Energy-efficient LEDs provide the optimal spectrum for plants to thrive, and temperature controls keep grow zones at the perfect climate all year long—adjusted to be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, as necessary.

Each unit is, in essence, a tiny indoor farm. By reclaiming the water that plants naturally respire into the air, these movable feasts use 97 percent less water than traditional farms—while yielding 100 times more per acre—all on renewable energy, without pesticides.

This ingenious process is so efficient, a single shipping container yields 80 acres’ worth of food.

Headquartered in Cincinnati, with one facility in Arkansas, in 2016 80 Acres expanded its operations to Granite Falls in Caldwell County, North Carolina—thanks to a $125,000 North Carolina Department of Commerce Building Reuse grant. With this vital foothold in the Southeast, the company is one step closer to its vision of delivering fresh, leafy greens to customers around the United States. Their ultimate goal: to have a presence in every state.

At the intersection of high technology and roll-up-your-sleeves, get-your-hands-dirty gumption, 80 Acres proves that big problems can be solved by thinking small. At ElectriCities, we’re big proponents of this can-do innovation, and are looking forward to seeing how many cities will soon have 80 acres of their own.

To learn more, watch CEO Mike Zelkind’s TedX talk about the benefits of vertical hydroponics, and visit 80 Acres Farms at their website:

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