On a recent frigid day near Scranton the wind chill was well below zero, but inside a newly repurposed industrial building in East Benton, peppers, tomatoes, kale and a variety of lettuces were happily growing at Green Spirit Farms
, a new sustainable, vertical farm.
Green Spirit, based in Michigan, is building up indoor farming operations at the former Owens-Corning fiber optic plant, vacant for over a decade. At full capacity, possibly by year’s end, the facility will house 1,715 vertical growing stations -- the equivalent of 200 acres of farmland, growing seven million plants (herbs, vegetables, fruit ) -- that can be harvested year-round, creating about 100 new jobs.
Green Spirit President Milan Kluko, an engineer, founded the company in 2011 after developing a scalable and commercially viable approach to vertical farming. Accoring to Kluko, his method uses 98 percent less water, 96 percent less land and 40 percent less energy than conventional agriculture. The system employs full-spectrum induction lights, carefully calibrated to create a microenvironment for growing produce on multi-level industrial racks. The lights create enough heat for the growing plants without wasting energy to heat the entire building.
Kluko says that the Pennsylvania location appealed to Green Spirit because of its proximity to large local markets. (Most of the produce will be sold within about 75 miles of the farm.)
"Our mission is to provide local communities with high-quality, fresh, pesticide-free, non-GMO and sustainably grown produce at a fair price," he explains. "When we build our indoor vertical farms, we believe they are sustainable and healthy places to grow plants and a workforce."
Working with the Governor’s Action Team
, Green Spirit received a $300,000 Pennsylvania First Program grant, $303,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits and a $45,450 grant to train its new workforce.
Source: Milan Kluko, Green Spirit Farms
Writer: Elise Vider