Vertical farming company Kalera announced today that it will open a high-tech facility in Houston, Texas in the spring of 2021. According to today’s press release, this will be the largest vertical farming facility in the state.
The announcement follows recent news that Kalera is also opening a facility in Atlanta, Georgia in 2021. The company already operates one in its hometown of Orlando, Florida.
Over the last couple years, Kalera has made a name for itself supplying greens grown via vertical farms to the hospitality sector. As of the end of last year, the company’s HyCube system was supplying the Orlando World Center Mariott resort with greens, and had plans with several grocery retailers and restaurants. It opened a second facility in Orlando in March of this year.
Then, as so many narratives go these days, the pandemic hit, and it’s a little hard to service produce to restaurants that are closed down. So Kalera struck a deal with Publix to sell its greens at 165 of the grocery retailer’s stores.
“We were very fortunate to be able to quickly pivot and focus more on the retail side and benefit from the slowdown.,” Kalera CEO Daniel Malechuk told me over the phone in April, at the time of this pivot.
The company didn’t name grocery specifically in today’s release, but given the current situation in Texas around COVID-19, retail seems a more likely destination than restaurants for greens coming out of Kalera’s new facility. Once open, the new site will be able to service not only the Houston area but also Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Antonio, Austin, and New Orleans.
Kalera’s high-tech vertical farming system uses IoT, data analytics, AI-powered process automation and cleanroom technology in its facilities to monitor plant growth and create the optimal recipe of lights, nutrients, and water for crops. Right now, the company grows leafy greens, which Malechuk said in April take less time to transport. “Other produce and fruit is probably extremely cost prohibitive in dense urban settings and situations,” he said.
The last few weeks have seen a surge of news in vertical and indoor farming, both in commercial-scale farming and at-home devices. AppHarvest has partnered with the Dutch government to turn the Appalachian region of Kentucky into something of an indoor farming powerhouse. Farmshelf launched its first-ever at-home vertical farming until for consumers. And SinGrow, a Singapore-based company that actually is trying to grow more than leafy greens, is getting a lot of attention of late for its proprietary strawberries and vertical farming tech.
Kalera said in today’s release that the Houston facility is just one in a string of planned locations around the U.S. and the rest of the world.