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Microgreens program also strong, new markets on horizon

US(IL): Vertical farming on rise with organic basil

As aquaponic and hydroponic technology continues to advance, major players in the vertical farming industry are planning to expand into new products and new territories.

FarmedHere, an organic basil and microgreens grower based out of Bedford Park, IL, is one such company. “We’re one of the largest indoor vertical farms in the country,” says Megan Klein, the company’s President. “And we’re definitely the largest running organic operation.”

Klein’s company, which serves the Chicago area and has partnerships with major retailers like Whole Foods and Mariano’s, started in 2010. According to Klein, organic basil was a natural choice for the company as the crop responds well to indoor farming, growing larger than Californian and Mexican crop. Basil also loses freshness quickly, giving FarmedHere – which delivers its produce directly to retailers each day – an edge in the Chicago market. 

Sales driven by demand for local & organic
Klein says that sales have increased every year of the company’s basil program. “We’ve actually increased the overall market for basil in the markets that we sell in.” In response to strong demand, FarmedHere doubled its basil production in 2015, and Klein says sales growth kept pace with the increase.

According to Klein, the strong response to FarmedHere’s program is largely thanks to growing demand for local and organic produce. “From all the research we’ve done, the demand for local farming exceeds anyone’s ability to supply it.” Klein – and others in her field – believe that climate-controlled, hydroponic/aquaponic farms can help fill that gap. 

Technology developing
FarmedHere recently expanded its growing program to include microgreens. “We began growing microgreens in the summer of 2014,” says Klein. “We launched [our microgreens program] with Whole Foods in February of 2015.” Klein reports that response – based on both sales and customer feedback – has been strong.

While FarmedHere’s product line has been somewhat dictated by technological limitations, Klein notes that advancements are occurring rapidly in the field. “[Soon] we’ll have new technology in place to grow more traditional products, like baby greens and salad greens,” says Klein. Based on these developments, FarmedHere is already planning to expand its product line for the upcoming year. “We’ll have bagged and packaged traditional salad greens by the end of 2016.”

New locations planned
FarmedHere is hoping to expand more than just its product line in 2016. As with other vertical farming operations, Klein’s company is looking to new markets where the demand for fresh, locally-grown, year-round produce has created openings. Long-term, FarmedHere has identified 18 cities as targets for expansion. “If we have farms in 18 cities, we’d be able to reach 75% of the national market,” says Klein. 

For more information:
Megan Klein
Tel: +1 (708) 458-2447

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