10/13/2016 – 80 Acres building ‘the future of farming’

Posted on: October 13th, 2016 by admin


October 13, 2016


One of the most modern things going on in Granite Falls today is a new approach to on of the oldest human activities – farming.


When local officials announced in April that an Ohio-based company named 80 Acres Urban Agriculture LLC was going to buy the former Hollin Gate building on York View Court and manufacture “chassis” for “vertical farming equipment,” it sounded pretty technical.


But Celeste Brantolino, the company’s vice president of human resources and a self-described “fifth-generation farm girl,” can break it down in simpler terms. Brantolino gave a presentation to the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Board of Directors and outlined the company’s operations. The Caldwell County EDC recently assisted 80 Acres in obtaining a $125,000 North Carolina Department of Commerce Building Reuse grant for renovations to the York View Court site.


What the company plans to do in Granite Falls is make all of the equipment needed to achieve an ambitious dream of creating a national network of small, hydroponic farming operations, most of them based in converted, 40-foot shipping containers. The goal is to allow consumers everywhere, particularly in urban areas, to have access to fresh, locally-grown produce year-round.


“When we get up to market, you will taste a strawberry in December that tastes just like it comes out of your June garden,” Brantolino said.


Hydroponic farming is growing plants without soil, and it has been done in certain forms for thousands of years, Brantolino said. But it is only in the past few years that advances in technology have dropped the price of LED lighting – needed to provide plants with an equivalent of sunlight – to the point that hydroponic farming has become commercially viable.


The shipping containers that 80 Acres uses are heavily insulated and were originally used in international and national shipping of produce from far-flung markets, she said. When the shipping companies finish with them, they remove the refrigeration units and sell the containers.


80 Acres builds in the hydroponic equipment to grow leafy greens, lettuce, herbs, strawberries or vine crops such as grapes, and the company is trying hops, Brantolino said. Each container can have as much agricultural yield as 80 acres of land – hence the company’s name.


But unlike traditional farms, the contained hydroponic farms, or “grow zones,” are immune to extremes of weather. There is no winter dormancy or withering summer heat, and no drought or deluge.


The company, which began one year ago this week, currently has contracts to supply produce under the name 80 Acres Farms to some Whole Foods stores in Alabama, one of the two states where 80 Acres currently has growers – the other is Arkansas.


“Whole Foods has placed orders with us to the point we are just scrambling to keep up,” Brantolino said.


A warehouse-sized hydroponic farm is planned in Ohio, and within five years the company wants to be growing produce in North Carolina. The ultimate plan is to be growing in every state, Brantolino said.


Hydroponic farming has an additional advantage: Water use is so controlled that hydroponic farms require 90 percent less water but achieve 40 percent higher yields, Brantolino said. Because population growth places more demands on natural resources, Brantolino said “water is the new oil when it comes to natural resources.”


She added, “We believe we are the future of farming.”


By Guy Lucas, (Lenoir) News-Topic


Comments are closed.

©2011-2014 Economic Development Commission of Caldwell County • Site Mapinfo@caldwelledc.orgWebsite by Market Force