Hamilton’s 80 Acres Farms expands size and influence with new facility, NYC exhibit

Construction continues on the new location for 80 Acres Farms indoor farming facility on Hamilton Enterprise Park Drive Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Construction continues on the new location for 80 Acres Farms indoor farming facility on Hamilton Enterprise Park Drive Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

A flourishing year of growth from 80 Acres Farms is showing no signs of slowing..

The Hamilton-based farming startup is constructing a 55-foot-high, 70,000-square-foot building on Hamilton Enterprise Park Drive, one it says will be the nation’s first fully automated indoor farm and a training ground for others.

That adds to the fast-growing presence of 80 Acres Farms, which launched Hamilton operations last year in a nearby facility at 7427 Hamilton Enterprise Park Drive and a renovated building at 326 South 2nd St. in downtown Hamilton.

But construction of a new facility is not the only recent big news for the company.

PHOTOS: Inside the huge Hamilton growing facility 80 Acres, the country’s first of its kind

On Thursday, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museuem in New York City launched "Countryside, The Future," new exhibition in collaboration with architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas. As part of the exhibit, 80 Acres Farms, along with commercial partners Infinite Acres and Priva Holding BV, will grow cherry tomatoes in a 700-square-foot indoor grow area right outside the museum on Fifth Avenue, one of the busiest streets in New York.

The exhibition runs through Aug. 14.

Founded in Cincinnati in 2015 by veteran food industry executives Mike Zelkind and Tisha Livingston, 80 Acres Farms has developed its own artificial intelligence-powered growing system, sophisticated data monitoring, and automation technologies to deliver high quality and nutritious products.

That includes locally grown, just-picked leafy greens, microgreens and vine crops, and the world’s only tomatoes and cucumbers grown completely indoors using solely LED lighting.

It distributes to major national grocers, local retailers, restaurants, and food service companies from its facilities in Ohio, Arkansas, North Carolina and Alabama. Clients include such as Kroger, Whole Foods, Dorothy Lane Market, Giant Eagle and Jungle Jim’s International Market.

Passersby in New York will be able to peer through a large window in the indoor farm to view a crop of fresh tomatoes being grown continuously during the next six months. The first tomatoes grown will be ready for harvesting and consumption by late next month.

The "Countryside, The Future" exhibition will examine political forces, social issues, and environmental factors altering landscapes across the world, including traditional farmlands.

“We believe that what we are doing is about the future of food,” said Zelkind, 80 Acres Farms’ chief executive officer. “We are changing the way fruits and vegetables are grown and harvested locally then delivered to grocers the very next day. There is an enormous market and consumer appetite around the world for produce that our crop scientists and other food experts have been perfecting during the past five years.”

Zelkind said 80 Acres’ participation in the “Countryside, The Future” exhibition will allow New York residents and visitors to experience how “the freshest, tastiest locally-grown tomatoes” can be grown year-round indoors in one of the busiest cities in the world.

80 Acres’ Guggenheim collaboration is expected to grow 50,000 tomatoes in six months. Additional tomatoes will be donated to City Harvest, a New York City food rescue organization that recovers excess food and distributes it to people in need.

Last year saw massive growth for 80 Acres. It opened an Enterprise Drive facility that grows leafy vegetables, herbs and strawberries, and a South 2nd St. building that grows vine crops, including tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

In June, the company launched Infinite Acres, an independent joint venture aimed at providing large-scale indoor farming facilities worldwide. The venture also includes UK-based Ocado Group, one of the world’s largest dedicated online grocery retailers, and Netherlands-based Priva Holding BV, a leading provider of technology solutions, services and automation systems to horticultural and other industries.

That partnership is now building large-scale, fully automated indoor farms in the United States, Asia and Europe.

In July, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a Job Creation Tax Credit for 1.647 percent over eight years for committing to create 125 new jobs and investing at least $26.9 million. That paved the way for it to move its headquarters from Cincinnati to Hamilton. Earlier in the year, the company secured a $40 million investment from the last round of funding, which will allow it to carry out expansion of its Hamilton operations.