5/9/2018 – 80 Acres Farms part of high-tech farming boom

Posted on: May 9th, 2018 by admin


May 9, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Before going to work, Celeste Brantolino pulls her dark brown hair into a bun and dons a white hair net. She scrubs her hands with soap and hot water while standing in a puddle on a rubber mat filled with sanitizing solution for the soles of her shoes. She then puts on a long, blue coat, buttons it from top to bottom and opens the door to the office: a retrofitted storage container filled with plants.


Brantolino is one of a team working to hydroponically grow produce — without soil, only water and nutrients — in Granite Falls at 80 Acres Farms, a company based  in Cincinnati, Ohio, that opened shop in Caldwell County two years ago. The company grows produce year-round in environment-controlled spaces to sell to nearby restaurants and grocery stores but hadn’t planned to grow at the Granite Falls site off York View Court for years.


Originally, the Granite Falls location was where new growing units were made from former shipping containers, and then they were sent to other places. Progress was much quicker than expected, however.


“We’ve had so many requests, so many people wondering when we would start growing … so we thought, well, let’s start,” said Brantolino, vice president of human resources and organizational learning.


After rapid expansion last summer and fall, the company owners, Tisha Livingston and Mike Zelkind, decided to try to sell produce in this area. Getting the growing started early gives the company  time to show the farming method is sustainable and proven, Brantolino said, making companies more likely to buy from them.


Brantolino is joined by a grower, James Williams, who does the hands-on work with  the plants, and Nancy Crawford, who sells the product. Williams maintains the perfectly controlled environment inside the storage container, of which there is one, where  temperature, moisture, water, nutrient levels and pH are all controlled so the plants grow to their very best without pesticides or herbicides.


The food that comes out of the storage containers makes it to grocery stores and restaurants in two to three days, compared to seven to 10 days from a larger commercial farm. Plus, any food can be grown any time of year, no matter the season, Brantolino said.


“I like to say, ‘If it’s snowing, we’re growing,'” she said.




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