Wilder Fields is transforming an abandoned store into a giant vertical farm
By Diego Flammini
A food company is turning a former store space into a large vertical farm.
Wilder Fields, which operates a smaller vertical farm in Chicago, Ill., plans to open another farm in Calumet City, about 35 minutes away.
The site of the second location is a 135,000-square-foot (3.1-acre) building that was once a Target store. The retailer operated in the location for about 20 years before the store’s closure in 2015.
The $40-million renovation project will divide the space into 24 rooms.
Construction will happen in two phases. The first, scheduled for completion by the end of 2021, includes building an initial group of farming rooms. The second phase should be finished in early 2023.
Using artificial light and intelligence, robots, and a controlled climate, the new vertical farm will produce greens like spinach and basil that normally couldn’t grow in the Chicago area. About 80 employees will operate the facility.
In addition, the farm will have a retail store and food court.
The farm can produce up to 25 million pounds of greens per year for local grocery stores and restaurants, company reps estimate.
“We want to grow more than just produce,” Jake Counne, founder of Wilder Fields, said while announcing the project at the site, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported. “We want to help the communities where we build our farms to grow as well. It’s a bold vision. We think it’s possible.”
The new farm may also take the top spot as the world’s largest vertical farm.
To date, a 130,000-square-foot (3-acre) farm in Dubai holds this title. Crop One Holdings, a San Francisco, Calif. food company, and Emirates Flight Catering, which provides food for Emirates Airlines and other airlines operating out of the Dubai International Airport, operates this facility.
The Dubai farm is scheduled to open this year.
Vertical farming appears to be a growing industry throughout the United States.
The vertical farming market could be worth around $3 billion by 2024, a January 2019 study by ResearchAndMarkets.com projected. That figure represents a compound annual growth rate of more than 24 percent between 2018 and 2024.
Farms.com has reached out to Wilder Farms for comment.