City works to help 80 Acres Farm succeed, stay in Hamilton

Vertical farming industry has faced challenges.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Hamilton is working with 80 Acres Farms to help one of the country’s largest vertical farming companies continue its growth and success in the future.

City Council will consider amending the Utility Economic Development Agreement (EDA) with 80 Acres for the second time in as many years. Christine Carr, Hamilton’s acting director of Business Services, said amending the utility EDA will incentivize the company’s future growth within the city.

Details of the amendment are still being worked out, said Carr, and the company plans to make a presentation at the Jan. 24 council meeting. City Manager Joshua Smith’s staff is still drafting the agreement, but “we are taking the agreement they received last year and giving them the same 2023 terms for 2024. In exchange, they agreed to add one year to the end of their agreement.”

The city and 80 Acres entered into the utility EDA in October 2018, an accord designed to encourage job growth and increased electric consumption in the city. They amended the contract last January mostly because of an unplanned facility.

Though the amendment’s details won’t be known until next week, the impact will “incentivize future growth,” Carr said.

Smith said on Wednesday there had been a lot of disruptions and challenges in the vertical farming industry in the past 12 to 24 months. Well-known vertical farms in the industry filed for bankruptcy, including AeroFarms and AppHarvest. Though it’s not a good sign to see big vertical farms go out of business and there are challenges, Forbes reported last year there are opportunities for the industry.

And 80 Acres has grown.

In September, 80 Acres opened its largest and most advanced farm, a 200,000-square-foot facility that was a $95 million investment, in Florence, Ky. With their produce in stores, like area Kroger stores, Dorothy Lane in Dayton and Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield, they launched last year new grab-and-go salad kits.

They operate two indoor farms, one on Enterprise Drive and one on South Second Street in downtown Hamilton, and the company is the city’s third-largest electric consumer.

Last month, Hamilton Council agreed to revise 80 Acres’ lease agreement at One Renaissance Center, 345 High St., which would help them expand their office operations. The company’s office headquarters is on the seventh floor of the city building, and Hamilton agreed to freeze the rent for 2024 to 2026, then extend the contract by three years, which would end in 2033.

“We would get the increased amount, we would just delay it by three years and capture it on the back end of the agreement,” Smith said in December. “It’s been a tough year for vertical farms across the United States.”

Though there had been some large vertical farm companies that went out of business in recent months, 80 Acres remains one of the larger ones in the country.

“We’re just trying to help them out,” Smith said, adding about the lease agreement, “All we’re asking council to do is to push the larger part of the rent to the back end of the contract.”

About the Author