US vertical farmers unveil their most technologically advanced facilities yet

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/JohnnyGreig
Image: Getty/JohnnyGreig

Related tags vertical farming

Soli Organic and Oishii have both revealed details of new vertical farming operations.

Soli Organic claims to be the only soil-based, indoor farming company in the US delivering 100% USDA certified organic produce.

The new facility, in San Antonio's mixed-use Brooks Community at the site of former Brooks Air Force Base, spans 140,000 square feet, including 100,000 square feet of production, with six vertical layers of growing capacity and 40,000 square feet for processing and packing.

The farm will grow over 10 different crops, including a diverse range of organic herbs such as basil, cilantro and mint, plus organic salad greens like spinach, arugula and romaine lettuce.

Soli Organic has products in more than 20,000 stores nationwide, including Kroger, Target, Walmart, Whole Foods and other top 20 retailers.

In 2022 it announced the close of a Series D funding round totalling nearly $125 million. According to the company, the unique soil-based growing system uses automation, industry-leading lighting, precision organic fertigation and vertical and horizontal space for the highest quality and yield, along with efficient use of inputs.

The facility design enables growing with 90% less water and 1/100th of the land used in traditional outdoor farming. The facility also avoids the volatility of weather and the quality loss associated with extensive food miles, and its efficient technology keeps growing costs low and quality high, which is a value that is passed on to the consumer.

"In today's economy, consumers want value, and that's what our new San Antonio facility is designed to deliver," said Matt Ryan, Soli Organic's Chief Executive Officer. "This high-tech farm will offer retailers and consumers fresh, organic produce grown here in Texas and is already delivering our best yields yet in a state known for the biggest and best of everything. This operation is pivotal to our national growth strategy, exemplifying our commitment to making organic produce accessible through a scalable, sustainable and profitable model."

The news came after vertical farmer Oishi opened its new indoor vertical strawberry farm spanning more than 237,500 square feet in Phillipsburg, New Jersey.

Harnessing energy from a 50-acre solar field next to the premises and built in a refurbished plastic factory, the facility – called Amatelas – is its “most technologically advanced farm yet”, said its founders Hiroki Koga and Brendan Somerville. “It’s a huge step forward in making our operations less reliant on non-renewable resources.  In this farm, 250 moving racks are stacked with eight growing levels that seamlessly move on a 24-hour cycle. This moving architecture automates the growing process and enables bees, robots, and farmers to work together to grow more berries in the same footprint.”

Oishii’s $134m Series B fundraise in February was the largest deal in the first quarter of 2024. Accordign to Stephan Dolezalek, managing partner at investor Grosvenor Food & AgTech, Oishi is very much an example of a company offering a high-quality product – strawberries – at affluent consumers prepared to pay a premium for an elevated food experience. This way it can cover the higher operating costs for vertical farmers.

Read more: What does a successful vertical farming company look like? 

The new Oishi facility – called Amatelas – is outfitted with next-generation LED lights that use 14% less energy per plant, the founders said, and the facility’s multi-million dollar water purification system has eight times more capacity than the older Oishii farms, allowing it to recycle the majority of the water it uses today. “For efficiency, nearly 50 state-of-the-art robots work around-the-clock at Amatelas Farm to ensure berries are picked at the peak of ripeness and optimize operations over time. This means harvesting fruit that’s always delicious, no matter the time of year.” 

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