Fitton Center teams with 80 Acres CEO to teach students about high-tech farming

Hamilton students learning about ancient farming techniques got a lesson from an expert overseeing a world-famous and local futuristic, indoor agriculture company during a guest lecture at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton.

Tisha Livingston, co-founder of 80 Acres Farms and CEO of Infinite Acres, was the guest speaker to a packed audience Thursday, which included students from nearby St. Joseph Consolidated School.

Livingston spoke and showed a video on the pioneering company that in 2015 took a renovated downtown Hamilton building and converted its floors into an entirely indoor, vertical farming operation that has since attracted both international attention and investors.

ExploreLuncheon featuring 80 Acres Farms co-founder will include food from the business

The 80 Acres Farms company produces salads, microgreens, herbs, cucumbers and tomatoes that are available at retailers including Kroger, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, Jungle Jim’s International Markets and Dorothy Lane Market, as well as food service distributors including Sysco and US Foods.

The technologically advanced approach of using total indoor climate control, artificial lighting and pesticide-free farming is the latest evolution in humans’ history of feeding themselves through growing plants, Livingston told the audience.

ExploreInside the change: How Hamilton’s 80 Acres works on the front lines of farming tech

“We have managed to grow field on top of field on top of field,” she said referring to the design of 80 Acres’ indoor space.

“We give these plants the perfect day, every day. And there is no playbook for what we are doing. We’re pretty much making it up as we go,” she said, adding “we now have global investors, which is awesome.”

Among the St. Joseph students’ questions were some direct ones.

“How do you do it?” asked one student, eliciting good natured laughs among the mostly adult audience.

Livingston explained the farming process and added how the company’s close relationship with Hamilton has benefitted both.

“I feel like we are family here. We are helping one another here … and we love being here.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

St. Joseph fifth grade teacher Missy Biddinger said after the presentation, her students were excited to learn from such an agricultural pioneer of 21st Century farming.

The Fitton Center’s popular speaking series attracted Biddinger’s attention and asked center officials if her students from the nearby, neighborhood school could join in the audience to which they gladly agreed.

“I think it is interesting for the kids to be able to get information from other people besides me and to have an experience such as this to learn from as well as what we learn in the classroom.”

“And they had great questions.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Photojournalist Nick Graham contributed to this story.

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