This new 90,000-square-foot green-growing factory from a company called FarmedHere is located about 15 miles from downtown Chicago.

Making use of an abandoned warehouse, it is a vertical indoor farm for producing arugula, four types basil, and a whole bevy-ful of fish.

The water from the tilapia tanks is used in the aquaponic (when plants grow in water) and aeroponic (sprayed) systems, so that very little water is ever wasted.

The farm uses about 3% of the water of traditional agriculture.

The facility also cuts energy usage, by eliminating the need for heavy farm equipment and long-distance shipping.

It’s the largest indoor aquaponic farm in the country.

And the first to receive organic certification from the USDA.

The plants grow on six shelves from floor to ceiling.

The plan is to supply up to a million pounds of greens annually, mostly to stores like Whole Foods, but also to local restaurants.

The plan is to supply up to a million pounds of greens annually, mostly to stores like Whole Foods, but also to local restaurants.

The plan is to supply up to a million pounds of greens annually, mostly to stores like Whole Foods, but also to local restaurants.

The plan is to supply up to a million pounds of greens annually, mostly to stores like Whole Foods, but also to local restaurants.

2013-03-27

Co.Exist

Inside A Nondescript Chicago Warehouse Hides An Enormous Farm

The FarmedHere project has filled up 90,000 square feet of space with arugula, herbs, and tilapia, creating a closed system that will supply a million pounds of greens a year.

From enormous rooftop farms to out-the-way greenhouses using up vacant land, urban farms have been appearing all over the place in the last few years. The idea of bringing production closer to market makes sense economically, environmentally, and for urban management. Better to make use of unused space than have it overrun by something less useful.

The latest addition to the crop is this 90,000-square-foot green-growing factory, about 15 miles from downtown Chicago. Making use of an abandoned warehouse, it is a vertical indoor farm for producing arugula, four types basil, and a whole bevy-ful of fish. Most ingeniously, the water from the tilapia tanks is used in the aquaponic (when plants grow in water) and aeroponic (sprayed) systems, so that very little water is ever wasted.

"We use about 3% of the water of traditional agriculture and it’s all recyclable," says Jolanta Hardej, CEO of FarmedHere, the company behind the facility. In addition, like other indoor farms, the facility cuts energy usage, by eliminating the need for heavy farm equipment and long-distance shipping.

Hardej says the Bedford Park building is the largest indoor aquaponic farm in the country, and the first to receive organic certification from the USDA. The plants grow on six shelves from floor to ceiling, covering 150,000 square feet, and are tended by workers using lifts. The plan is to supply up to a million pounds of greens annually, mostly to stores like Whole Foods, but also to local restaurants.

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5 Comments

  • Alvin26

    this article leaves a lot to be desired, that's for sure...particularly on the energy usage front...just how much electricity is needed, and how does the result compare against organic farms in the area, that kind of thing.

    still, it's really great that people are doing this...it's really a win/win for everyone except chemical companies, when you think of it.

  • Phil Szrama

    I would like to know the numbers on this. How much energy and money does it cost to run all the lights? What are the profit margins? Do they break even? What seeds are used? I think this article only highlights the good things. I would like to hear both sides of the story. Also, if it is a good option for farming crops how can we implement this into other cities and towns?

  • Christine Wheeler

    This is very inspirational  While we make businesses more efficient, FarmedHere has blazed a new trail by using 3% of the traditional agriculture.  Fantastic

  • Please research topics better

    Simply growing plants in water is called hydroponics.  Aquaponics is the synergistic and symbiotic marriage of a type of aquaculture - growing fish in a natural or controlled environment - and hydroponics - growing plants in water.  The fish are fed by the aquaponic farmer and the fish feed the plants with their biowaste - one crop is fed and two crops are produced.  A pump system circulates the water from the fish tanks to the growing trays and back again.

    Economic viability of aquaponics is dependent on the relationship of the geographic location's natural temperature and sunlight levels with the preferred growing conditions for both the chosen plant and fish species: the less you have to alter natural conditions for optimal plant and fish growth, the more economically viable the operation will be.  It's not the perfect method of growing all crops/fish regardless of location.

  • Dr Robo12

    Having a closed system with these goals is fashionable, but truly a possibility? I think not. At least for the near future. Sure, it's "a plan" to supply up to a million pounds of product annually while also turning some sort of profit, but these indoor systems still struggle with being effective. And how about heating a re-purposed warehouse in the winter? That most likely costs a fortune.

    It's all a bunch of talking the talk with no walk until we actually SEE numbers that show true, naked capability. These indoor facilities are a dime a dozen in this day and age.

    Of course, my sentiments are largely because I'm sick and tired of seeing these new aquaponic/aeroponic/magic-ponic systems popping up left and right with big claims, only to ultimately disappoint. See Milwaukee for two great examples in Growing Power and Sweetwater Organics. Sweetwater is obviously struggling, whereas Growing Power's claims are often blindly consumed by idealists.

    Rant being finished, I truly wish FarmedHere the best. If they come up with a successful model, it will be an indispensably valuable contribution to local and urban agriculture movements the world over. If they are differentiating themselves from the pack (and by now there truly is a pack of mediocrity in this vein), this article neglects to point out how they are doing it any differently than the rest.