FarmedHere is a commercial, indoor farming initiative in the Chicago area, dedicated to bringing fresh greens to local consumers in an innovatively sustainable way. Using a combination of vertically integrated, indoor aquaponic and aeroponic systems, FarmedHere is able to grow several varieties of basil and arugula in a way that, they say, cuts waste, maximizes production, and reduces environmental impact. FarmedHere’s third and largest facility in Bedford Park opened in March, and at over 8,000 square meters (90,000 square feet) it is the largest indoor aquaponic farm in the country. It is also the first to receive an organic certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Aquaponics is an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional farming methods. Here, plants and aquatic animals (in this case, tilapia) are cultivated in a symbiotic system that uses re-circulating, nutrient-rich water fertilized by the fish to nourish the plants, instead of soil. FarmedHere further decreases water waste by also using an aeroponics system, which consists of misting the water in a closed loop, and allows the company to reuse 97 percent of its water.
The company, founded by ex-mortgage broker Jolanta Hardej, is committed to a local environmental policy which includes growing, harvesting, packaging, and delivering locally in Chicago, utilizing green printing options and using packaging that containing 90 percent less plastic. In addition, stacking plants in a vertical system allows for maximum use of space, and because of the indoor controlled environment, there is far less product loss than traditional outdoor fields.
One of the greatest benefits of this system is being able to grow produce year-round in any climate, and in places where there is limited space or no land.
Currently, the company markets four varieties of basil and arugula directly to retailers and restaurants, including Whole Foods, Mariano’s Fresh Market, and Green Grocer. Plans for 2014 include producing 450,000 kilograms (one million pounds) of salad mix and herbs, expanding their market to include more restaurants and grocery retailers, and providing up 200 jobs in the community.