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Smarter Worlds May Include Indoor Farms

Smarter Worlds May Include Indoor Farms

by JONATHAN BARNES, for Hard Hat Hub | Dec 16, 2015

Insider farmer Matros.

Insider farmer Matros.

Matt Matros gets animated when he talks outside the box... about growing food in them.

“We build boxes inside of boxes. So we can take an old building that looks forgotten and put our farm inside it,” he says. The CEO of Chicago-based FarmedHere, an organic indoor farming company, is talking about plans to replicate his firm's current 90,000-sq-ft operation in Bedfork Park IL in other cities across the nation. That will have the dual benefit of creating needed fresh produce for underserved urban communities, as well as welcome jobs in agriculture for their low-income residents. 

"On average, a head of lettuce travels 1,200 miles to reach your plate," states the FarmedHere website. "Our greens travel just across Chicago, which is why they’re the freshest."

Freshness aside, the task, itself, still seems gargantuan. Can indoor farms really be scaled across the country? “We’re aggressively planning to build more farms, and to have our second farm built by the end of 2016,” Matros says. In all, the company wants to create 18 more indoor farms across the U.S.—with Austin TX slated as the next location—to touch most of the nation with its healthier produce.

We’re aggressively planning to build more farms and to have our second farm built by the end of 2016.
— Matt Matros, CEO, FarmedHere

Currently, BuiltWorlds' sister company, Hard Hat Hub, is working with FarmedHere to locate and hire several project managers to work on the planned expansion.

Feeding the Future

Collectively, these 18 total facilities could serve most of the U.S. population, according to FarmedHere. If they are successful in the U.S., the farms could be an answer the world is seeking.

“We can bring this stuff indoors and solve the global problem of feeding people,” Matros says.

Other companies, including electrical industry leaders, are thinking about solving the same problem. Proponents say it is the future of agriculture. But others say indoor farming is a costly enterprise that makes no sense. Still, some, such as FarmedHere, are continuing to invest more in the idea, upgrading the technology used to grow food beneath LED lights in climate-controlled environments.

In the Netherlands, for instance, Phillips recently opened GrowWise City, an indoor farm/research facility. The research center has implemented layered mechanical planting racks that use Phillips GreenPower LED lights. These and other efforts dovetail those of many other companies hoping to further the trend in creating smart cities that use space and energy much more efficiently.

Solving the global problem of feeding people—or even the simpler quandary of feeding just the U.S.—with less available farmland, might seem daunting enough. But FarmedHere is not new to this business. Already, it has tried multiple soil-free solutions, including aquaponics, a process that uses fish waste to fertilize plants. Even so, Matros believes FarmedHere may find hydroponics, which uses mineral nutrient solutions in water, to be an even better long-term solution.

So how much food can a 90,000-sq-ft indoor growing operation grow? Quite a lot, says Matros.

Growing food around the clock indoors, under lights, completely controlling for air temperature, humidity and other conditions, could be the brave new agricultural world of the future. Maybe it should be, since indoor farmers use about 90% less water than conventional farmers, Matros says. But that’s just one of several eco-friendly benefits.

Because an indoor farm grows vertically, not horizontally, a smaller footprint of space is needed. “For every one acre of indoor farming, we replace 30 acres of outdoor farming,” Matros says.


every one acre indoorS replaceS 30 acres outdoorS. Each Year Has 13 harvests!


But even more importantly, because the growing continues in an indoor operation 24 hours a day, there are 13 harvests each year. And having farming operations closer in proximity to the consumer means less travel to deliver the food. That’s also why FarmedHere often delivers its produce within two days of harvesting it.

Founded in 2011, FarmedHere has grown steadily and created a niche it now plans to grow. The additional locations may seem a lofty goal, but the new facilities will be smaller than the original Chicagoland site, ranging in size from 65,000 sq ft to 75,000 sq ft. Although it seems like a massive undertaking, FarmedHere’s plans align with a trend in healthier eating that has already propelled firms such as Whole Foods to iconic and profitable status.

“The demand for organic and local foods is at an all-time high and only continuing to grow,” Matros says. “People care more and more about what they put into their bodies. People want to know where their food is coming from, and that it is safe.”

As concerns about health, bacteria and pesticide contamination, and food origins increase, people will continue pay more to eat organic, to eat local and above all, to eat safely, he reasons.

And urban indoor farming operations, such as FarmedHere, aim to be a big part of that solution.


Based in Pittsburgh, the author is a freelance business journalist who writes about construction technology for BuiltWorlds and Hard Hat Hub. A former construction worker, himself, Barnes has worked as a reporter for years, writing stories for ENR, Reuters, Fortune, and other publications. 

He can be reached via email at pittsburghreporter@yahoo.comFollow him on twitter at @Barnestormin.

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