Vertical Farming Operation Wins Incentives for $74 Million Investment, 125 Jobs in Boone Co.

A vertical farming facility was awarded state tax incentives this week as part of a $74 million investment expected to create 125 jobs in Boone County.

80 Acres Farms will locate into an existing 200,000-sq. ft. building on more than 22 acres. The facility will be converted into a vertical farming operation to serve the local market. It is expected to begin operations in the third quarter of this year.

“Agritech growth is a major part of our effort to create a sustainable economy that works for all Kentuckians, and I am very pleased to welcome 80 Acres Farms to the commonwealth,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a news release. “These well-paying jobs will create quality opportunities for our workforce. I want to thank the company’s leaders for locating in Kentucky and I can’t wait to see the facility up and running this year.”

The operation will include a high-tech indoor vertical farm and harvesting, packaging and distribution capabilities for leafy green, microgreens, berries and tomatoes. Once fully operational, the controlled-environment farm will produce millions of servings of local, fresh produce for the surrounding area, the announcement said.

“Opening a farm in Boone County will allow us to grow closer to our retail partners in Lexington and Louisville and introduce our fresh, healthy, locally grown produce to many more Kentuckians,” said 80 Acres CEO Mike Zelkind. “We’re always looking for ways to increase our impact, and this farm is the biggest step forward for us yet, more than doubling our total production and growing our footprint outside Ohio.”

Founded in 2015, 80 Acres operates indoor farms using 100% renewable energy and without the use of pesticides. The company’s flagship farm, located in Hamilton, Ohio, has capacity to grow 10 million servings of produce annually. 80 Acres currently operates eight farms and produces a range of food products, including salad blends, microgreens, tomatoes, basil and cucumbers, with plans to begin production of strawberries. The company supplies more than 300 Kroger stores nationwide, as well as other regional grocers.

Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore celebrated the announcement of a new vertical farming facility in Northern Kentucky.

“80 Acres is on an impressive growth trajectory, and we are thrilled to have their first location in Kentucky in Boone County,” Moore said. “We welcome the 125 new, high-paying agribusiness jobs and the first high-tech, vertical indoor farm in Northern Kentucky.”

Northern Kentucky Tri-ED CEO Lee Crume noted the newest 80 Acres fresh produce farm offers access to consumers throughout the Cincinnati region and the commonwealth.

“80 Acres is leveraging its science and technology to grow its products and scale its supply chain with much success,” said Crume. “A lot of collaboration with Duke Energy, Boone County and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development brought this project to fruition. I’m excited to buy 80 Acres’ Kentucky-grown produce at my local Kroger.”

Governor Beshear noted that this was among five economic development projects announced Thursday that alone represent $160.9 million in new investments expected to create 1,003 new jobs for Kentuckians.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) on Thursday preliminarily approved a 10-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $2 million in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of $74 million and annual targets of:

  • Creation and maintenance of 125 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 10 years; and
  • Paying an average hourly wage of $45 including benefits across those jobs.

Additionally, KEDFA approved the company for up to $250,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA). KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.

By meeting its annual targets over the agreement term, the company can be eligible to keep a portion of the new tax revenue it generates. The company may claim eligible incentives against its income tax liability and/or wage assessments.

-Staff report

Photo via 80 Acres

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