AeroFarms recently announced it will expand to the Midwest as part of a project with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the St. Louis Controlled Environment Agriculture Coalition (STLCEA). The project will demonstrate innovative strategies to minimize the environmental footprint of indoor agriculture. The greater St. Louis MO-IL MSA was selected as a key market and innovation hub for indoor vertical farming and AgTech development.
The 150,000-square-foot indoor vertical farm, AeroFarms’ largest to date, will be strategically located in the greater St. Louis area to provide AeroFarms with rapid access to retail partners throughout the Midwest. AeroFarms will deploy its latest generation of proprietary growing technology at the farm, which will generate yields up to 390 times greater productivity per square foot annually, compared to traditional field farming, while using up to 95% less water and zero pesticides. AeroFarms leafy greens are available at major retail and foodservice customers including Walmart, Whole Foods Market, ShopRite, Amazon Fresh, FreshDirect, and Baldor Specialty Foods.
“Customer demand for our award-winning greens has been accelerating across the United States, and this latest farm expansion will allow us to serve our retail partners and their customers throughout the Midwest,” said David Rosenberg, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of AeroFarms. “Farm development in the Midwest is part of our business model based on our proven success in the Northeast, and as a Certified B Corporation, we are equally excited to be able to create a more sustainable food system in the St. Louis area that has incredibly deep roots in agriculture and is home to an amazing AgTech community as well.”
The STLCEA Coalition was convened by WWF and consists of more than 70 key stakeholders including Greater St. Louis, Inc., Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, University of Arizona – Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, and Schnuck Markets, Inc. In 2020, the coalition solicited proposals to bring an innovative farm to help advance environmental and social objectives to the St. Louis MO-IL MSA, where sites in both Missouri and Illinois remain under consideration by AeroFarms. After evaluating proposals against a complex matrix, the coalition selected AeroFarms due to its proven track record and history of innovation and technology.
“Indoor farming solutions can help us ensure a more resilient and environmentally responsible food system in the future, through decreased water use, reduction of soil erosion and use of pesticides, and lowered food loss and waste, but there are still challenges to overcome,” said Julia Kurnik, Director of Innovation Startups at WWF. “With this project, WWF and the STLCEA Coalition will work with AeroFarms to develop solutions and make sure that as this industry continues to grow, it does so in a way that supports the health of the planet and local communities. We anticipate that the lessons learned from this project can be shared widely, encouraging innovation and replication in cities around the world.”
With 2.8 million people, the St. Louis metro area represents an excellent opportunity for farm development to bring healthy food to an urban population year-round, and given its strategic location is the “gateway” to food retailers throughout the broader Midwest. There is also a deep science community with more than 14,500 AgTech and bioscience jobs, and more than 1,000 PhDs working in plant science — one of the highest concentrations in the world.
“For 20 years, St. Louis has cultivated its AgTech assets, shaping them into a world-renowned industry cluster that grows start-ups and sustains developed businesses, supporting them all with research, funding and thoughtful collaboration,” said Steve Johnson, Chief Business Attraction Officer, Greater St. Louis, Inc., and president, AllianceSTL. “AeroFarms represents the next generation of this industry, and we welcome them to the community and look forward to a new phase of growth for the company and for the region.”
Ostara Production Facility To Bring 40 Jobs To St. Louis
In other AgTech news, Ostara St. Louis, Ltd. will invest $25 million and create 40 new, high-paying jobs as it establishes a Crystal Green® fertilizer production facility in St. Louis City. Announced last year and officially approved by the St. Louis Port Authority recently, Ostara has begun recruiting and hiring employees to staff the facility — its largest in the U.S. — and bring Crystal Green®’s sustainable technology to the Midwest.
The project was supported by Greater St. Louis, Inc., Missouri Partnership, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, Ameren Missouri, Spire, Bruce Oakley, Inc. and Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA).
“We’re excited to welcome another agtech company to Missouri, where agriculture remains our number one economic driver,” said Governor Mike Parson. “Ostara’s investment in St. Louis will create more career opportunities for Missourians, build on its mission to help farmers improve crop yields across North America, and protect water and soil quality around the globe.”
Canadian-founded Ostara, which develops technologies that recover phosphorous and nitrogen from water treatment streams and produces eco-friendly fertilizer products, currently has a fertilizer facility in Florida but began looking to establish a central U.S. presence. After a site selection search, executives concluded that St. Louis provided optimum conditions for the company’s growth and sustainability goals. The region’s AgTech aggregation, its proliferation of educational institutions and its Midwestern location all played a role in Ostara’s decision.
“St. Louis was a natural choice for Ostara to construct its newest and largest manufacturing facility that will produce our environmentally friendly Crystal Green® fertilizer,” said Dan Parmar, Chief Executive Officer at Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies. “As we gear up production over the next year, we’re partnering with the St. Louis community and Missouri businesses to continue our mission to produce a sustainable phosphorus soil health solution that will enhance crop yields while protecting water sources across the globe.”
Ostara plans to work with colleges and universities, businesses, and banks to grow roots and establish a presence in the region, creating the connections needed to build additional local plants in the future.
“St. Louis is open for business,” said St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones. “St. Louis welcomes Ostara as the latest addition to our growing agtech and innovation communities and the good-paying jobs the company will bring to our region.”
Ostara recently completed the purchase of its new St. Louis facility, located on the north Mississippi Riverfront, from Bruce Oakley, Inc., a trading, distribution and transportation company that will serve as a long-term partner for the firm. Ostara is leasing the land for the new facility via a long-term agreement with TRRA and Bruce Oakley, Inc. The company made a conscious choice to repurpose an existing facility as part of its larger goal to protect natural resources.
“Ostara is passionate about feeding the world while protecting the world’s precious water sources through its innovative nutrient recovery technologies and the production of Crystal Green. Fertilizer produced at our St. Louis facility will impact acres across the U.S. by substantially improving crop yields and by keeping nutrients in the soil instead of leaching into our precious water bodies,” Parmar added.
“Ostara’s products and vision dovetail with St. Louis’ strengths,” said Johnson. “Agriculture, plant sciences and manufacturing have long served as foundational elements of our regional economy. Our agtech assets will provide a unique level of support for Ostara, and the company, in turn, will contribute to its growth — and the growth of our region — while increasing quality jobs in Downtown St. Louis.”
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