The Future of Farming

Westbrook, Maine will soon be welcoming a new development that will positively affect the city, our state, and the future of farming.

As shared by WMTW, a six-floor, 75-foot indoor farm will be built in the heart of Westbrook and if all goes as planned, it will be up and running within the next two years.

What does this mean for our local community? Year-round produce growth, entirely unaffected by weather and negative impacts of climate change in a serious attempt at food supply resiliency.

Vertical Harvest Farms

Vertical Harvest Farms is headquartered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming but is now expanding its sustainable practices here in Maine. The Chief Operating Officer, Todd Hanna, spoke with WMTW and shared that the six-floor indoor farm will grow around 2 million pounds of fresh produce every single year.

Since the growth is entirely indoors, they are able to control the environment which allows them to accurately predict harvest, have a higher level of food safety and minimize contamination. The farm will primarily grow different types of lettuce and other greens, all using hydroponic technology. This means no soil, no fertilizer, and no pesticides.

While the farm will run on electricity, the sustainability practices in place are promising. This mode of farming will reduce water use by more than 85% compared to traditional agriculture and that water will be recycled back into the system, as explained on their website. The electricity used will be drawn from renewable sources while also using efficient LED lighting that allows the farm to grow all year round.

A Local Impact

As their website shares, the farm will be partnering with local food distributors and are committed to distributing their produce locally, rather than shipping out of state. The company also uses an inclusive employment model that focuses on hiring individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities to create an inclusive working environment for all.

The new development is expected to present 50 full-time positions and it will also anchor a multi-use development right in the heart of Westbrook. This will include a 60 in-unit apartment building and a 400-space parking garage. Typically, news like that scares me because we Mainers aren’t able to afford these new developments coming into town. But, these apartments will be classified as affordable workforce housing and the parking garage will be entirely free.

With all the news about new luxury condos and Michelin-rated restaurants coming to town, this is the type of positive and sustainable headline I love to see. This is the type of growth we need in Maine, one with positive outcomes for all.

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