Open Letter from Paul Hardej
Open Letter from Paul Hardej
A Note Regarding the Closure of FarmedHere
Paul Hardej, a Co-Founder of FarmedHere, has been a supportive member of the AVF through his involvement with two of our highly active members: Illumitex and Indoor Harvest. His previous venture, FarmedHere, just announced the closure of FarmedHere's 90,000 sq foot Bedford Park facility.
While this may appear to be a setback for the industry, we at AVF feel that vertical farming is stronger than ever. Our detractors will point to negative developments like this one as a weakness of our entire practice. Yet we all know that the industry is full of successful vertical farming businesses. We are glad to share this Open Letter from Paul Hardej on this subject.
What follows is a note from Paul Hardej:
Dear Vertical Farming Colleagues:
It’s not unusual that the first movers and shakers in a new industry come across unexpected challenges. As we all recently learned, FarmedHere is closing its vertical farming operations in Chicago. I had the honor of co-founding FarmedHere in 2009, when it was unheard of for commercial farming to be located in city centers. When we started FarmedHere there were no regulations, financing, qualified labor force, nor proven business model for vertical farming. All we had was the promise of technology for growing plants under artificial light. By 2010 we had our first city farm up and running as an ultra-local grow operation, harvesting greens one day before store delivery and farm-to-store direct distribution. It was truly a disruptive model to the traditional food distribution and farming industry.
Despite these challenges, we forged ahead and made great progress. For example, we went through many months of public hearings and complex legal processes to obtain government approval on the city, county, state, and federal levels. In addition, we obtained the first vertical farm USDA organic certification. Ultimately, we scaled our sales of several lines of leafy greens to about 100 grocery stores in the Chicago metropolitan market. In early 2015 due to a misalignment with some of the new FarmedHere investors on the future of FarmedHere, I moved to other ventures but remained optimistic for continued FarmedHere success.
Since vertical farming is a rather unique blend between highly efficient manufacturing and technological farming, its success depends on the following: strong and smart capital, innovative sales and marketing, and a solid management team, working creatively with stakeholders from the local government, growers, technology providers, and customers. While the vertical hydroponic grow technology was proven to work at scale, FarmedHere missed on the business-side, with some of the other necessary ingredients to expand on its initial success.
In 2017 there are many examples of profitable vertical farms across the country and abroad. As demand for local and organic food grows, so will the industry. There are numerous reasons vertical farming is in demand – food safety and transparency, consistency, availability, high quality, nutritional value, not to mention a push towards sustainability. But it’s going to take all of us working together and exchanging ideas and sharing experiences. Like the industry, I’m evolving to keep up with innovation and technology. I am very positive about the future and looking forward to working with all of you.
I would like to thank all the creative builders, architects, growers, angel investors and organic grocery stores who made it possible for FarmedHere to impact the food system with a positive and permanent change. Let’s all remember FarmedHere for what it achieved and how it paved the way for many successful vertical farms all around the World.
Keep on growing,
As: Co-Founder of FarmedHere, LLC