Will Detroit be the site of Vertical Harvest’s next farm? Community-oriented indoor farming leader Vertical Harvest is exploring the development of Vertical Harvest Detroit in collaboration with Bedrock, a Detroit-based commercial real estate firm specializing in the strategic development of urban cores. The proposed Detroit facility announced today would augment Vertical Harvest locations in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Westbrook, Maine, and mark a homecoming of sorts for Detroit native and Vertical Harvest CEO Nona Yehia.
Slated for a 2024 groundbreaking and 2025 launch, the proposed vertical farming infrastructure would bolster Detroit’s local food system, increase nutritional security and create 50 local jobs. Plans put the all-electric 60,000-square-foot CEA structure at 74 feet tall, housing a 205,000-square-foot growing canopy utilizing hydroponic, vertical and controlled-environment agricultural practices.
‘Feed locals first’ philosophy
Proposed for Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction neighborhood, the farm would produce an estimated 2.2 million pounds of accessible fresh vegetables year-round, including lettuces, petite greens, microgreens and herbs. Guided by its “feed locals first” philosophy, Vertical Harvest would pledge more than 70% of the food produced at the facility stay within 100 miles of the city, offering preference to local and regional distributors, as well as community institutions.
“Food insecurity is one of the most pressing urban problems nationally,” said Kofi Bonner, Bedrock CEO. “In Detroit, a significant portion of the population does not have easy access to fresh produce. Most importantly, Vertical Harvest products will be made accessible to civic institutions for quick and efficient delivery to our neighborhoods. The partnership with Vertical Harvest is another way that Bedrock will continue to extend our positive impact beyond the downtown core.”
Essential civic infrastructure
In response to growing supply chain upsets — complicated by the pandemic, climate change and extreme weather events — Detroit and other municipalities are incorporating food sovereignty and increased nutritional security into resiliency planning. While rising real estate rates often make urban farms cost prohibitive, Bedrock has helped identify a potential location and resources to bring Vertical Harvest’s 24/7 year-round production concept to market.
“We view food production as essential civic infrastructure,” Yehia said. “By partnering with city leaders and organizations like Bedrock, we hope to play an important role in scaling sustainable urban infrastructure for Detroiters.”
Bonner added, “We’re eager to help support and cultivate an ecosystem of fresh food, locally grown across Detroit. Vertical Harvest will increase access to healthy foods and brings green jobs to market.”
Inclusive hiring model
In keeping with Vertical Harvest’s inclusive Grow Well employment model, 40% of the jobs created at Vertical Harvest Detroit will be reserved for people with disabilities and focused on career growth opportunities.
Yehia noted, “I grew up here in Detroit alongside a brother with developmental disabilities, and I often saw his access to opportunity being defined by what people thought were his limitations. But when you begin with possibility and potential, you open up whole new worlds of opportunity.”
Image: Rendering of proposed Detroit facility, courtesy Vertical Harvest