It’s 1 p.m. on a Monday in the Cincinnati suburb of Hamilton, Ohio. But inside a windowless 70,000-square-foot structure in an industrial park on the outskirts of town, the “sun” is only just rising.
In a sealed room within the factory, dozens of LED grow lights awaken, dispelling the darkness of a simulated night. The light-emitting diodes fill the space with a glowing pink dawn that illuminates rows upon rows of leafy greens, packed together on trays and stacked on racks up to the 55-foot-high ceiling. This is the grow zone at 80 Acres Farms, one of the country’s largest vertical farms. On any given day there, 13,000 plants per row, or 800,000 plants in all — from lettuce and kale to basil to microgreens — are somewhere on their 30-day journey from seed to harvest.
Farm manager Joshua Jones stands just outside the grow zone. Every few minutes, a hatch slides open, briefly spilling the pink LED daylight into the white fluorescent factory floor, as a conveyor belt spits out another tray of densely packed, mature lettuce. The tray is then lifted into another machine that reaps the leaves and pours them out onto another conveyor belt. There, a lone worker, gowned and hair-netted, sifts through the linear salad to pull out the few undesirables with a gloved hand.