The company, based in Bedford Park, Ill., is finishing the first of four phases, with plans to expand by the end of next year to 150,000 square feet of vertical growing space.
Already, they say they are the largest vertical farm in the country, a claim experts who monitor the field believe to be true. The farm supplies local grocery with fresh basil, arugula and other greens.
Right now, the farm has two large structures with five to six levels of massive growing beds that are lit with fluorescent lighting.
One structure, where basil is grown, is "aquaponic." Water underneath the plants — which rest in cutouts in styrofoam "floats" — circulates through a system from the plants to two large tanks of fish. The other structure, where arugula is grown, is "aeroponic," with water misters underneath that spray the plants' exposed roots.
A third structure is under construction and will be completed soon, owners at FarmedHere say.
WHAT'S THE ROUTINE LIKE AT FARMEDHERE?
Workers plant the seeds and grow seedlings on racks, then transfer into the growing systems.
After about a month, the crops — certified as "organic" by the USDA — are harvested and packaged by about a dozen workers in a cooling room at the facility. Early the morning after the harvests, workers use two vans to deliver those greens — mainly basil and arugula right now — to grocers in Chicago and suburbs, including Whole Foods and Mariano's Fresh Market locations.
CEO Jolanta Hardej calls it "on-demand farming."
"Let's say that the demand is suddenly for various types of arugula or various types of mixed greens, or mini greens," she says. "We could change the whole system ... and pretty much within the next 14 to 28 days, we have a full grown plant, whatever the market requires."