( Photo courtesy Aero Farms; Graphic by Brooke Park )

As consumer interest in topics like locally grown food, sustainability, food deserts and urban agriculture continues to grow, innovative produce companies continue to meet demand, whether expanding onto the rooftops of cities like Chicago and New York or forming vertical farms in warehouses and containers.

Dec. 16
AeroFarms building its largest facility in rural Virginia
By Chris Koger

Vertical farms company AeroFarms, Newark, N.J., is investing $42 million to build a 150,000-square-foot aeroponic facility in rural Virginia.

The operation, in an industrial park that’s a joint venture for the city of Danville and Pittsylvania, is the 10th facility for Aerofarms. Virginia was in competition with North Carolina for the project, according to a news release from the office of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Nov. 21
Time magazine names AeroFarms as a best invention
By Chris Koger

AeroFarms, the Newark, N.J.-based indoor aeroponic grower of leafy greens and microgreens, has been named as one of Time magazine’s 100 Best Inventions.

In the online listing, Time calls the company’s patented technology a key advance, specifically the growing medium: “rather than grow in dirt, these crops grow in a reusable cloth made from recycled water bottles. Instead of being doused with water, the crops are hydrated with a gentle mist.”

Nov. 14
Gotham Greens opens large greenhouse in Chicago
By Tom Karst

The 100,000-square-foot facility, built from a portion of the former Ryerson Steel Mill, is the company’s sixth greenhouse for the company and the second one in Chicago’s Historic Pullman Neighborhood. 

The greenhouse more than doubles the company’s Midwest production to 11 million heads annually, according to a news release. ...
Ten years after its 2009 beginning, Gotham Greens will operate 500,000 square feet of greenhouse farms in five U.S. states by the end of the year, according to the release.

Oct. 16
AeroFarms receives sustainability award
By Amy Sowder

Newark, N.J.-based AeroFarms won the Responsible Business Award for Sustainable Innovation at the Ethical Corporation Awards, a Reuters event.

Members of the indoor vertical farming and agriculture technology company gathered Oct. 2 in Westminster, London, to receive the award, according to a news release. 

June 19
Touring Brooklyn’s Gotham Greens atop Whole Foods
By Amy Sowder

BROOKLYN — It was a perfect summer evening on a Brooklyn rooftop, with colorful food spread out on a picnic table and dozens of friendly faces talking about what they love: fresh vegetables and fruit.

The evening was hosted by Gotham Greens, an urban hydroponic greenhouse grower, which started in Brooklyn but has since expanded to at least four locations in New York City, plus a couple in Chicago, and more coming to Baltimore and Providence, R.I.

Viraj Puri, cofounder and CEO of Gotham Greens, gave a tour of the basil, arugula and salad greens greenhouse, explaining the company’s mission, how the greenhouse technology works, and why it benefits retailers, consumers and urban communities as a whole.

March 29
Greenhouses keeping up with demand
By Amy Sowder

Tim Heydon touched the brick of proprietary soil in the first room.

“Everything we do is USDA-certified organic, and it starts with the soil system,” said the CEO of Shenandoah Growers, Harrisonburg, Va., one of the largest commercial indoor fresh herb growers in the U.S. 

As North American greenhouse vegetable growers of all kinds expand and adapt, this company has jumped on board whenever an indoor growing technology’s cost dropped and efficiency improved.

Shenandoah Growers started in 1989 as a field herb farm. When Heydon came on board in 1998, the company had $1 million in sales with 20 employees. 

Gradually, the company evolved from field and low-tech greenhouse growing to a more controlled environment indoor growing system in 2008. Now, Shenandoah does more than $120 million in sales, with 1,200 employees. 

Today, the company has a 35% share of the national organic fresh herb retail market, Heydon said.

March 28
Bowery greens available on Peapod, AmazonFresh
By Amy Sowder

Fresh greens from Bowery Farming, New York, N.Y., are now available throughout the greater New York area from Peapod and will be offered on AmazonFresh in mid-April.

The two online grocery service partners will make Bowery’s produce available for delivery across all five of New York City’s boroughs, north to Scarsdale in Westchester County, east to Deer Park, Long Island, and throughout northern and central New Jersey for the first time, according to company spokespeople.

March 27
Rhode Island governor and Providence mayor to welcome Gotham Greens
By Amy Sower

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor and other community leaders will join Viraj Puri, co-founder and CEO of Gotham Greens, Brooklyn, N.Y., in announcing the company’s first urban greenhouse farm in New England.

The greenhouse farm will be at the historic General Electric Base Works facility in Providence, R.I., according to a news release.

The 110,000-square-foot high-tech farm is scheduled to open in early fall. The facility will grow year-round to supply restaurants and foodservice customers in region with 10 million heads annually of lettuce and leafy greens.

March 11
Square Roots expands indoor farms with Gordon Food Service deal
By Chris Koger

Gordon Food Service, Grand Rapids, Mich., has formed an exclusive partnership with indoor farming company Square Roots, expanding the greenhouse company’s reach from its New York base.

The agreement gives Square Roots access to more than a dozen Gordon Food Service distribution centers and 175 retail locations, although the news release announcing the partnership doesn’t specify where Square Roots plans to build more indoor farms. Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Square Roots now serves about 30 locations in the New York metropolitan area, according to its website.

Jan. 29
DelFrescoPure and CubicFarms team for new growing technology
By Tom Karst

A partnership between Kingsville, Ontario-based DelFrescoPure and CubicFarms will result in LivingCube, an indoor automated vertical growing machine that continuously produces living lettuce, living basil and microgreens all year long.

According to a news release, the LivingCube system has 12 mechanized growing, germination and irrigation machines, each built inside proprietary insulated 40-foot-long stainless steel growing chambers. 

The growing machines, according to the release, are individually climate controlled to optimize the environment for each crop and also connected to a fully enclosed climatized common work area.

LivingCube is powered by DelFrescoPure’s off-the-grid electrical cogeneration system, according to the release.