7/11/2017 – 80 Acres Farms expanding space, equipment for high-tech operation

Posted on: July 11th, 2017 by admin

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July 11, 2017

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Mike Zelkind imagines paradise – a beach, sand, palm trees, sun, maybe even a Mai Tai – then forgets everything, because he’s building a paradise for plants.

 

“Plants ‘see’ things … very differently than people do,” Zelkind said. “You gotta think like a plant.”

 

At 80 Acres Farms in Granite Falls, Zelkind and Tisha Livingston are creating perfectly controlled environments to grow crops in former shipping containers. The company opened its Granite Falls facility last fall, and this fall the company will expand.

 

The company just bought the 20,000-square-foot building behind its current facility, in the former Hollin Gate building on York View Court, so it can add more equipment and construction space.

 

Right now the team builds about one crop-ready container every five weeks, chief engineer Tracy Canipe said. With the extra space, parts for 10 to 15 containers can be built at one time, which will allow the team to assemble about two containers every three weeks.

 

The company takes ownership of the new space in September and will start using the added room immediately.

 

The facility makes 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.

 

The company builds the containers for the five 80 Acres growers in Cincinnati, Ohio; Daphne, Ala.; and Springdale, Ark. The company’s long-term plans call for expanding to more growers in more states.

 

While there is no “grow zone” locally making use of 80 Acres’ products, Zelkind said if an interested grower and a partnership with a local produce buyer in Caldwell County came along, the company would be open to start growing in the area.

 

“You have to have an interest in the community first,” Livingston said.

 

Before opening its facility, 80 Acres bought assembled, plant-ready growing containers from a company in Holland.

 

The expansion also will allow 80 Acres to do more experimenting and research on what set-ups work best for different plants.

 

Canipe and his team work to design the right mix of airflow, lighting, carbon dioxide, humidity, water, nutrients, and temperature. Soon the team will test grow in the containers, Zelkind said, to learn more about the growers’ side of the operation, such as how different plans grow and what systems are easiest for growers.

 

“To us, the combination of a company that is successful is to have engineers that understand growing, and growers that appreciate engineering,” Zelkind said.

 

By Virginia Annable, (Lenoir) News-Topic

 

 

 

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