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Five Farms Pushing the Boundaries of Indoor Agriculture

Bright Farms Courtesy of Bright Farms

Bright Farms, Courtesy of Bright Farms

Indoor farms are the new and innovative way to grow greens. Modern indoor farms are quite large and filled with state-of-the-art technologies – they aren't the tiny greenhouses of yesteryear.

We've rounded up five, indoor farms to give you a taste of what some of the most innovative growing organizations are producing.

1. Bright Farms 

Bright Farms has built its state-of-the-art farming facilities in seven cities. Bright Farms specializes in creating farms that conserve land and water. The Farms also are designed to "eliminate agricultural runoff" and to "reduce greenhouse gas emission from transportation." Bright Farms has partnered with CropKing (specialists in controlled environment agriculture), Hort Americas (provides products to greenhouse growers), NetSuite (software company), and Nexus Greenhouse Systems (produces affordable greenhouse structures) to ensure it produces top-notch facilities

All of Bright Farms' facilities use hydroponic growing methods, which conserves water and produces high yields. Bright Farms' greenhouses also are ideal for rooftops because they are lightweight. Pests are controlled with Integrated Pest Management. 

2. Green Sense Farms 

Green Sense Farms, the largest commercial indoor farm in the United States, relies on vertical growing to produce its organic, GMO-free vegetables year round. Similar to the other organizations mentioned here, Green Sense Farms' customers are local. The company also recycles nutrients, its "renewable coconut coir planting medium," and water. Green Sense Farms is 30,000 square feet and specializes in growing culinary herbs, leafy greens, microgreens, and lettuces.

Robert Colangelo, Green Sense Farms' founding farmer, uses LED grow lights to help the farm's produce thrive. And while Green Sense Farms is located in Portage, Illinois it distributes its greens to Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan, too. 

3. Gotham Greens 

Gotham Greens resides in Brooklyn, New York, but it has helped many urban agriculture programs across the United States get their start. Gotham Greens' specializes in building, designing and operating commercial-scale greenhouse facilities that reside on rooftops. The produce is grown using hydroponic methods and pests are kept at bay with biological controls.

Three bright minds helm Gotham Greens: Viraj Puri, Eric Haley and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark. And while the idea for Gotham Greens was hatched in 2008, it wasn't until 2011 that the organization built its first greenhouse in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood. Now that original facility is able to harvest over 100 tons of produce all year. In addition to the organization's original facility, Gotham Greens also has greenhouses in two other locations (one other in Brooklyn and the other in Queens) and plans on adding more locations in New York, and beyond. In fact, on October 7, Gotham Greens announced that it's partnering with Method "to build the world's largest rooftop farm in Chicago." 

4. Farmed Here 

FarmedHere is a commercial vertical farming operation residing in "urban facilities" in Chicago. The organization's aim is to grow local produce and create local jobs for Chicagoans. Farmed Here's produce is shipped locally, using local distribution methods to reduce energy use. Farmed Here uses aquaponics with its vertical farming operation. The organization's method allows it to reuse 97 percent of fresh water. The method also allows Farmed Here to grow sans pesticides and herbicides.

In addition to only growing and distributing locally, it also packages locally and uses local suppliers. (The organization's packaging uses "over 90 percent plastic" compared to other companies' packaging.) All of its packaging is printed by Green Printers, which uses soy based inks. So far, Farmed Here produces baby arugula, kale and watercress, basil, mint, petite salad greens, and sweet basil vinaigrette.

5. Green Spirit Farms 

Green Spirit Farms LLC has operated from its New Buffalo, Michigan location since 2012. The Farm resides in a 40,000 square-foot industrial building. The organization (with the help of Omega Garden, a rotary hydroponic system) grows using units in a multi-level system (Rotary Vertical Growing Station) and a multi-level tray system (Vertical Growing Station). Green Spirits Farms' process allows it to harvest several times a year. The organization went with this approach to provide local produce to the area, and to help reduce "transportation and supply chain management costs." The organization also grows its produce with renewable or carbon neutral energy, and doesn't use pesticides. Also: The Farm reuses 95 percent of its water. The company sells its non-GMO produce at local grocery stores and restaurants.