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UpTech to host Demo Day for fifth cohort on Feb. 9

A GPS for your health. Pothole data and workplace incident reports used to improve safety nationwide. Efficient alternatives to printing on physical paper.

What do these things have in common?
They’re all startups in the fifth year of UpTech’s Accelerator program — and all will showcase their businesses via pitch format to an audience of community partners, investors and startup enthusiasts on Feb. 9.
Each year, UpTech selects up to 10 startups for the six-month Accelerator program, where the curriculum is driven by intensive entrepreneurship education, one-on-one mentoring, up to $50,000 in seed capital and access to best business model development methods, customer acquisition strategies, project management principles and product development practices.
The 2017 StartupCincy Demo Day will be hosted at 84.51° on the fifth floor. Doors open at 5:15 p.m. and the demos begin at 6 p.m. A reception showcasing local food vendors and breweries will follow the pitch event, where attendees can network with UpTech companies.
This year’s Demo Day features nine data-driven startups from all around the world. Demo Day is their opportunity to share their vision for the future with the public.
Founders: Glenn Lawyer, Tobias Theobald, Tariq Khaleeq
Provides technology that can help you see how bad a cold or flu will get and when you’ll be better. It also provides personalized, clinically validated guidance to get you back on your feet.
Founders: Christi Brown, Brad Brown
Gives companies the ability to simplify and streamline entire safety programs and data collection by gathering all incident reports the same way, every time, regardless of when and where. Allows for insight to data analytics, risk identification and cost drivers all in one place.
Founders: Josh Israel, Devin Serago, Aayush Kothari, Amardeep Kaur
A solution that provides businesses an efficient alternative to printing on physical paper.
Founder: James Bridgers
A road data analytics company that captures and productizes collected road data for a wide range of customers. One of its first data products focuses on pothole data that is being tailored for governments, drivers and insurers.
Founders: Robert Clark, Shane Young
Project management software with artificial intelligence that makes your team more productive. Provides context to your work and allows for maximization of time and to-do lists.
Founder: Elias Jureidini, Arlette Saliba, Amy Tatielle Marticorena, Rodrigo Tagle, Jose Blanco, Sebastian Soffia, Dante Maldonado
A discovery and streaming platform for podcasts and radio stations that allows producers to highlight content within their shows and for listeners to find and interact with it.
Founders: Mariano DiMurro, Zafer Balbous
An online drag-and-drop template service for launching branded apps, quizzes and games that is aimed at creative agencies, digital marketing agencies and SMEs.
Founders: Tim Mielke, Greg Buns, Nick Moore
A mobile app for the nutritional supplement industry to help consumers make better-informed decisions when purchasing supplements
Founders: Andris Merkulovs, Marins Bratuskins, Reinis Skorovs
Helps game developers monetize their mobile games by turning design assets into branded merchandise, providing high returns and automation.
Demo Day is already sold out, but if you're interested in attending, you can add your name to a waiting list here.

Bunbury founder launches event management tool for organizers

Cincinnati event planners will soon have access to a new organization tool from Bill Donabedian, the creator of popular local festivals like Bunbury Music Festival, Buckle Up, MidPoint Music Festival and the PNC Summer Music Series.
In 2015, Donabedian and partner Olivier Fischer founded DiaZam LLC, a company that specializes in event-management software. The result is DiaZam.com, a cloud-based tool for creating, organizing and managing layouts for large-scale events.
"DiaZam was designed by an event planner (me) for event planners," Donabedian says. "It doesn’t matter if it’s a small food truck festival on a city block or a huge music festival in a city park, DiaZam makes designing a layout fast and easy. Event layouts change over time and DiaZam also helps manage that process."
Donabedian and Fischer tweaked their software model for 18 months before testing it at last year’s Cincinnati Food & Wine Classic and Bunbury.
“I developed a technology for Bill years ago for the MidPoint Music Festival,” Fischer says. “I was able to leverage that same technology to help solve his problem with event layouts. Now users can do layouts using their web browser — no technical or design skills needed — and there is no need for expensive or complex software like Illustrator or CAD.”

The pair explains that since buying and learning programs like Adobe Illustrator and CAD can be daunting for the average person, a major selling point of DiaZam is that it works in any web browser and is intuitive to use. The tool also tracks everything about every object in the layout, so event layouts are always up to date.

"When we say it's fast and easy, we mean it," Donabedian says.

Cincinnati makerspace offerings expand to meet creative demand

Earlier this month, Soapbox introduced readers to the city’s newest crop of co-working spots — places where independent professionals can meet, network and swap ideas. Typically, such spaces are designed to mimic traditional office life — with amenities like fast internet and teleconferencing — but a wholly different set of so-called makerspaces caters to artists, mechanics, chemists, brewers and a wide range of other hands-on professions.
Know of another great makerspace? Let us know and we’ll add it to our list. 
Boone County Makerspace
7056 Burlington Pk., Burlington, KY
Located within Boone County High School, it is the result of a partnership between Leadership Northern Kentucky, the Brainy Bots & Junior Brainy Bots and Boone County Schools.

Hellmann Creative Center
321 12th St., Covington
The Center for Great Neighborhoods' headquarters offers opportunities for residents to gather and work on creating placemaking endeavors with the goal of improving the neighborhood.

Hilltop Glass Creations
1592 Compton Rd., Mt. Healthy
Offers opportunities for community members and visitors alike to gather, take classes, learn something new and be creative.

2929 Spring Grove Ave., Northside
Provides an open framework for hackers of all stripes to exchange ideas, skills and information. Hive13 encourages its creatives to learn from each other as well as teach.
Main Library Makerspace
800 Vine St., Downtown
A place where creative people can gather, create, invent and learn using 3D printers, audio and visual equipment, laser cutters and engravers, sewing machines, cameras and other hardware and software tools.
The Manufactory
12055 Mosteller Rd., Sharonville
A 17,000-square-foot, membership-only workshop for makers, artisans, engineers, inventors, prototype builders, crafters, stage and prop builders, DIY-ers, restorers, entrepreneurs and repair technicians.
Shotgun Row artist collective
Orchard Street, Covington
Five rehabilitated houses offer space for artists-in-residence, which means the shotgun-style houses have studio or retail space toward the front and residential toward the back. Shotgun Row is owned and operated by Covington’s Center for Great Neighborhoods.
Xavier University Library Makerspace
3800 Victory Pkwy., Avondale
Open to all students, faculty and staff to explore their creativity, access disruptive technologies like 3D printers and scanners, use tools for constructing projects and imagine solutions to problems with real-world applications.

Founder Institute Cincinnati will graduate its first class on Feb. 1

Founder Institute, the newest cultivator of entrepreneurship on the StartupCincy scene, graduates its first local cohort with a public showcase on Feb. 1.
“We are graduating top level talent for the entrepreneurial ecosystem here,” says Michael Hiles, founder of Intellig8 and one of the directors of Founder Institute Cincinnati. “We worked hard to be very inclusive, and a third of our graduates are minority-led businesses.”
Founder Institute recruits entrepreneurs that are working on the ideation stage of their company or product for a rigorous 14-week program that's designed to challenge the viability of ideas and the resilience of the founders. The first Cincinnati cohort will graduate nine founders from eight companies — two members of the class had similar ideas and decided to join forces to create one company.
  • Brad Birck: Virtual Lens will use a virtual/augmented reality application for consumer experiences, including virtual property showings for real estate agents and their clients.
  • Doron Katriel: The Holistic Experience will produce WetDryes, a two-sided toilet paper that is moist on one side and dry on the other.
  • John Bentley and Sam Malik: MeeLance provides a platform to match freelance professionals with clients based on skills and work style. Once matched, the system will support the relationship from proposal submission to product delivery.
  • Keliyah Yisrael: Boonbee will create an engaging social platform for giving monetary gifts for birthdays, weddings and other special occasions.
  • Lawrence Jones: Just Hire Me is a staffing platform for teenagers who are available for light chores, small projects and day work. It then matches them with the business and individuals who are looking to hire.
  • Matthew Thomas: Fiero gamifies the career discovery process for college students, using their strengths, weaknesses and motivators to help them explore professional options.
  • Steve French: Invest Your Faith helps Christians find companies that match their beliefs so they can have piece of mind about their investments and earn a competitive rate of return.
  • Yogesh Kadiyala: Gyftsense utilizes social profiles and interests to recommend the perfect gift for any occasion.
“We expect to see our graduates active in the StartupCincy ecosystem,” Hiles says. “Some are considering applying to other accelerator programs, while others are already meeting with angel investors. We are very focused on building community and support among the cohort. They will also stay engaged with Founder Institute and we hope some will attend FounderX, the global Founder Institute alumni conference.”
The Graduate Showcase is open to anyone, and Founder Institute Cincinnati is hoping to draw a crowd that includes those who are interested in startups and entrepreneurship, service providers, other founders and investors. Each founder will present their company to the audience in a pitch-style program.

During the event, Founder Institute Cincinnati will also provide an overview of its program, which is currently recruiting for the spring cohort with early admission ending March 5 and final applications due by April 2. The application fee is waived for anyone who attends the Graduate Showcase. The second class will run from April 19-July 19, and a fall cohort will be offered as well.
Registration is required for the Graduate Showcase. The event, held at Cintrifuse, begins with networking at 6:30 p.m. followed by the pitches.

Beer and wine startup and hybrid retail bar coming to The Gantry in Northside

The options are often overwhelming at specialty beer and liquor stores. If a customer doesn’t know what they’re looking for, they tend to settle for something they’re familiar with. Nick Belleman and Jason Parnes are hoping to alleviate some of the stress associated with these decisions with their new startup, Higher Gravity.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity, and we feel that Higher Gravity fits in well with other businesses in Northside,” Parnes says. “There are places popping up in the neighborhood that aren’t corporate brands but local people who are starting their first thing, and that’s what we’re doing too.”
Belleman and Parnes are accountants by trade — they’ve traveled all over the world for work and have tried different beers everywhere they’ve been. About four years ago, Parnes started dabbling in homebrewing. Their love for different beers and learning different aspects of the craft beer industry are what lead them to start Higher Gravity. 
The craft beer and wine startup will open in May next to Melt’s new location in The Gantry. The 2,214-square-foot space will have 14 rotating taps designated for craft beer, 700 different beers and 200 different wines that will be available to enjoy in store or to take home. Customers will be able to create their own six packs or purchase 22-oz. crowlers or growlers of beer.
A minimal corking and capping fee will apply to all bottled or canned products enjoyed in store, but Parnes says that those items will still cost less per glass than going to a typical bar.
Higher Gravity will have a heavy focus on educating customers about what they’re drinking. The educational program is still in the works, but there will be iPads around the store so customers can research what they’re looking at.
“We want the consumer to understand the art behind what they’re drinking,” Belleman says. “There are reasons why special glasses are used and what flavors you’re tasting, and I think understanding that brings a new level of enjoyment.”
Although Belleman and Parnes are going to be educating others about beer and wine, they don’t claim to know everything.
“We’ll be learning right along with our customers, which is what’s really cool,” Parnes says.
When customers walk into the space, they will be drawn toward the white bar. A beer cooler will hold more popular, everyday beers, while the more specialty brews will be toward the front of the store. Higher Gravity isn’t a sports bar, but three big screen TVs will show big games and will also be used for educating customers.
Higher Gravity won’t have a kitchen, but small snacks will be available for purchase. Customers will also be encouraged to place orders from nearby restaurants.

21c Museum Hotel embraces new year with art, technology

On New Year's Eve, 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati offered a bold, one-of-a-kind, one-night-only New Year’s Eve event: a virtual reality experience called MOMENTUM featuring virtual-reality acquisitions and new-media works from local artists that were shown throughout the museum and event spaces.

One MOMENTUM exhibit, "Primal Tourism" by Danish installation artist Jakob Kudsk Stensen, took attendees on a first-person journey from a minimalist Scandinavian apartment where the protagonist hears the sound of a mosquito before collapsing and waking up on the island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia.

The entire experience was created in virtual reality using satellite images, a logbook from the 1722 East India Trading Company expedition, travel journals and other research into what the climate will be like in the future on an abandoned landscape. The work was developed over eight months using Unreal Engine, one of the industry’s leading computer game development software programs.
The goal of MOMENTUM was to offer as much substance as fun, with traditional New Year’s merrymaking of drinking and dancing coupled with fantasy, technology, ecology and art interactivity — a combination Cincinnatians would struggle to find anywhere else.

The event, produced in collaboration with IRL Gallery and Modern Makers, was a roaring and engaging success according to 21c curators, who said they anticipate adding more virtual reality events to their upcoming calendar.
If you missed the event and want to learn more about the "Primal Tourism" exhibit, check out www.jakobsteensen.com/work.
Coming soon to Metropole: A Global Gathering: The 21c Collection, will open on Friday, Jan. 27. It will be a multimedia exhibition of highlights from the permanent collection exploring portraiture and identity, power and politics and the evolution of the environment. Eighty works by artists from all over the world will be on view. The Final Friday celebration will start at 6 p.m. with a tour by Chief Curator Alice Gray Stites, and doors will stay open late with snacks, drinks and music.

Sustainability advocate Rob Richardson joins Cincinnati mayoral race

Amidst a period of unprecedented growth for downtown, Over-the-Rhine and Cincinnati as a whole, sustainability advocate Rob Richardson, Jr. recently announced that he will join the 2017 mayoral race. His "One Cincinnati" platform emphasizes innovation, inclusion and a personal belief in the city motto of “Juncta Juvant” (Strength in Unity).
“Rob’s ultimate goal,” says campaign manager Daniel O’Connor, “is to leverage the expansive variety of talent and resources our city offers to provide and expand opportunities to all people that live here, regardless of race, gender or neighborhood.”
As chairman of the Board of Trustees for UC — the second-largest university in the state and the city’s largest employer — Richardson has forged relationships with leading sectors that include business, education, local startups, technology, community activism and more. It's an integrative approach that has allowed him to move outside the political realm, and one that he feels will enable him to leverage Cincinnati’s ever-growing pool of talent.
A teacher once told a 13-year-old Richardson that he was not intelligent enough to go to college. In response, his mother instilled in him the belief that limited expectations don't matter, reminding him at every turn that, “You define yourself, for yourself, by yourself.”

How does Richardson define himself? As an innovator and a person who actively pushes back against the status quo to find unique and effective solutions to any problem.
Richardson reinforced that conviction at the press conference where he announced his decision to run. He said that the election is not about the streetcar, west side vs. east side or a battle between political parties, genders or races. Instead, Richardson said, the election is about the type of city that we want Cincinnati to be, now and in the future.
To learn more about Richardson — the person and the candidate — visit www.robforcincinnati.com or his campaign’s Facebook page.

Cintrifuse CEO joins world's largest startup accelerator board

In a move that could have national implications for Cincinnati’s tech scene, Cintrifuse CEO Wendy Lea will join the board of directors for Denver-based Techstars, the world’s largest tech startup accelerator network.

Lea’s involvement with Techstars can be traced back to the accelerator’s founding in Boulder, Colo., in 2006. She became CEO of Cintrifuse in 2014 and worked in 2016 to establish Cincinnati as a host for FounderCon, an annual gathering of Techstars alumni.
“As a Techstars mentor since 2007, Wendy understands the value of our mission,” says Techstars co-founder and co-CEO David Cohen. “In 2016, she was instrumental in bringing the most recent Techstars founder event, FounderCon, to Cincinnati, an emerging startup hub in the Midwest. We plan to lean on Wendy for strategies that make this a win-win for founders, startup communities and corporations with a desire for innovation.”
In addition to growing entrepreneurial endeavors, Techstars is a philanthropic foundation. Lea will help steer the organization as one of seven directors.
To date, more than 1100 entrepreneurs — including a few Cincinnati companies — have completed the Techstars accelerator program.
Cincinnati leaders like CincyTech president Mike Venerable hope that Lea’s addition to the Techstars board will mean opportunities for Cincinnati and growth for our tech scene.
"Wendy's energy and experience have already had a great impact here, capped by her work to bring Techstars' FounderCon to Cincinnati late last year," Venerable says. "Her seat on the Techstars board gives our region the collected wisdom and learnings of the Techstars global community and connections that are unmatched in the startup space."

Faith-based startup accelerator OCEAN announces third class

Oakley-based OCEAN Accelerator recently named the third class of entrepreneurs to enter its business-incubation program. OCEAN is the first faith-based business accelerator in the nation, and is located at the Crossroads Church campus in Oakley.
Since its founding in 2014, OCEAN has accepted up to 10 startups each year, taking participants on a five-month global journey where their business ideas receive faith-based mentoring and support.
The 2017 OCEAN class will run Jan. 16 through the end of May. While OCEAN has always offered seed investment opportunities, the amount has increased this year to $50,000.
Visit OCEAN's website to learn more about the 2017 class of startups, which includes:
  • AraJoy Inc. Software: enables drones to film sporting events without a human operator.
  • Bundle: a mobile inventory, low-price tracking tool.
  • Cloverleaf.me: a visualization and scenario-planning tool for team management.
  • ConsultMates: healthcare consulting marketplace and info-sharing tool.
  • FLX: financial software for farmland rental contracting.
  • Kwema: emergency alert system that connects smart bracelet to a mobile app.
  • Owl Labs: a research and development lab that facilitates human-machine interaction. 
2017 participants hail from as nearby as Cincinnati, Illinois and Georgia, and as far away as Sudan, Chile and Australia. The class is comprised of 43 percent female and 25 percent minority founders.

UC law students provide free legal counsel to 230 local entrepreneurs

The University of Cincinnati College of Law is giving its students real-world experience with Cincinnati entrepreneurs through a partnership with the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) and MORTAR.

“One of the best ways for our law students to learn how to practice law is by actually doing it,” says Lew Goldfarb, director of the ECDC. “In the clinic, law students assume responsibility for managing attorney-client relationships from start to finish, an experience that cannot be duplicated in the classroom.”

The ECDC opened in 2010 to provide hands-on training for law students and to provide free legal services to local entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations that might otherwise be unable to afford professional counsel. In the past six years, 147 students have provided over $1 million in free legal help to 230 local businesses and organizations.

“The ECDC is different than most other business clinics due to its extensive community involvement,” Goldfarb says. “We partner with many local business organizations, law firms and local lawyers, which helps enhance our impact on local entrepreneurs and law students alike.”
Under the supervision of Goldfarb and attorneys from local law firms, students prepare and review contracts, work on trademarks and copyrights and handle issues around corporate governance and employment practices, as well as prepare applications for tax-exempt status. Fellowships with ECDC are offered each semester and over the summer.
In addition to ECDC’s relationship with MORTAR, students have worked with other local incubators like Bad Girl Ventures, The Brandery, First Batch, the Hamilton County Business Center and OCEAN Accelerator. The students' experience with each accelerator program is similar, but their work must be tailored to the varied needs of their clients.
“Most MORTAR business owners are starting lifestyle businesses and not high-growth, venture track tech businesses, like those participating in The Brandery program,” Goldfarb says. “Students sometimes must adjust their legal priorities and how certain agreements are drafted.”
Goldfarb’s commitment to support and strengthen the local entrepreneurial community extends to serving as a member of MORTAR’s board.
“I was thrilled when I read about the launch of MORTAR,” Goldfarb says. “I believe its mission met a significant, unmet need in the entrepreneurship community. I reached out to Derrick Braziel to find out more about their plans and to discuss a potential partnership with the ECDC.”
ECDC also works with independent clients that are not affiliated with one of the local accelerator or incubator programs. Community partners refer businesses that are in need of assistance, and other clients reach out for assistance directly through an application on the group's website.

With the tremendous growth in the local entrepreneurial community and redevelopment efforts underway in many Cincinnati neighborhoods, ECDC anticipates there will be an increasing need for its services.
“I am open to collaborations with other organizations in the community as long as it will benefit our students and our resources allow it,” Goldfarb says. “By working together, I believe we can make a big difference in the community.”

Family advocacy group The Breeding Ground launches social network

This month, a new, Cincinnati-based social network will officially launch to help support working parents and their families.
The Breeding Ground is a national organization for parents that works to raise awareness and ensure family-supportive legislation and workplace policies. The group emphasizes inclusivity with regard to age, gender, marital status and sexual orientation among its members.
Attorney and social entrepreneur Rachel Loftspring returned to Cincinnati to start The Breeding Ground after living in Chicago and giving birth to her first child with her husband Dan.
“We aim to harness the collective power of parents — and at 35 million American families with children under the age of 18, we're a powerful group — to deliver change,” Loftspring says. “And for those parents who want to take on a leadership role, we are organizing our steering committee now.”
The Breeding Ground’s three-person team works with advisors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Hughes Strategies Ltd. and Centric Consulting to advocate for gender-neutral paid leave, affordable and quality early childhood education, flexible workplace policies, equality at home and at work and other issues that affect working parents.
By accessing The Breeding Ground’s interactive platform, registered members can share their experiences, connect to legislators, plan meetups and take advantage of other family-focused resources.
Members can also apply to lead a local chapter and host regional events related to awareness and legislative advocacy. Those interested in getting involved should email hello@thebreedingground.org.

Local tech startup tilr receives job-creation city grant

Last month, the City of Cincinnati granted a Job Creation Tax Credit to tilr, a company that will use the funds to hire 150 employees over the next three years.
The tech startup uses a patent-pending algorithm to connect qualified workers with area companies on an as-needed, on-demand basis. tilr endeavors to save time for both candidates and employers by streamlining the job application process and eliminating the need for cover letters and lengthy interviews.
Interested employers can visit tilr’s website and browse hundreds of vetted, trusted workers to meet a variety of short- and long-term placement needs. For employees, tilr provides a background check, introductory phone call and membership in the online community.

The company was incorporated in October of 2015 by five co-founders: Carisa Miklusak, Summer Crenshaw, Luke Vigeant, Sam Pillersdorf and Stephen Shefsky.

"Not only is tilr a local direct employer that will grow to a projected 100-plus jobs over the next three years," says Crenshaw, who, along with her team has grown the company to 17 employees since launching. "It is also a marketplace with over 13,000 community members in the Cincinnati area placing individuals with companies for work opportunities."
tilr recently moved into a new space at 308 E. 8th Str. downtown.

"As tilr launched beta and market release of the product in the Cincinnati region, Cincinnati rose to the top as a premier destination for a tilr office," Crenshaw says. "After months of working in the market (and one of the co-founders being a Cincinnati native), the co-founders agreed that Cincinnati would become the operational headquarters for the organization. Working with REDI Cincinnati, tilr was able to secure an incentive package that encourages tilr’s growth and expansion."

Its partnership with the city involves a 12-year tax credit that is based on future job creation with an average salary of $55,000 per year.

Watch list: Five local startups positioned for big growth in 2017

As Greater Cincinnati’s tech scene continues to experience rapid growth — jumping from 35th to 16th out of 40 metro areas polled in 2016 — a few startups have begun to break from the pack and show serious promise.
Here are five tech companies to watch in the coming year:
Astronomer: Veteran entrepreneurs Ry Walker and Tim Brunk secured $1.9 million in seed capital to found this big-data startup, which in 2016 scored some big-name clients as well as a partnership with CVG to analyze airport-collected data.

Everything but the House: Since the estate-sale marketplace launched in 2008, EBTH has raised $84.5 million in capital, and they’re not slowing down anytime soon. Currently active in 27 U.S. markets, the startup is growing at a rate of one new MSA per month.

FamilyTech: What started in 2012 as the popular ChoreMonster app has become a behemoth organization aimed at helping families stay connected as they grow. Millions of families worldwide now access the FamilyTech suite of apps, which includes Mothershp, ChoreMonster and Landra.
Lisnr: Billed as “the world’s most advanced ultrasonic audio technology,” Lisnr started out as an app to unlock special content from music. It has since grown into a unique service that allows users to transfer data using sounds inaudible to the human ear, with in-app capabilities that include mobile payment, event ticketing, instant replay and more.
MedaCheck: “Never forget to take your medications again,” is the tagline for this tablet-based service, which experienced meteoric growth in 2016 after a successful pilot with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The startup also recently expanded its audience to include adolescents and seniors, and they’re exploring further expansion in the coming year.

80 Acres Farms to reduce the number of miles produce travels from ground to plate

Winter in Ohio is not the season for fresh, homegrown strawberries and tomatoes — for now.

80 Acres Farms has big plans to change the local food system by bringing fresh, nutritious and environmentally-friendly produce to local plates year-round.
“Taste, nutrition and texture are based on many variables, such as healthiness of the plants and distance they are grown from market, which leads to picking the vegetables before they are ripe,” said Mike Zelkind, CEO of 80 Acres Farms. “Unfortunately, food today is bred to survive the complex global supply chain. By taking food miles out of the equation, we can provide high-quality, tasty, nutritious foods at a good price point. We’re not going to replace farmers. We want to provide year-round, locally grown produce.”
80 Acres Farms recently purchased a vacant building on an industrial site in Spring Grove Village. By February, its “plant paradise” will be up and running. The building will be converted into a fully-enclosed hydroponic farm. Using efficient technology and vertical growing systems, 80 Acres Farms will leverage its quarter-acre building into the equivalent of a 50-acre farm. The facility will also include a visitor center for the public.
“Our customer experience center will invite in the community,” Zelkind said. “We want to bring in local chefs for demonstration and have school kids come to learn about science, photosynthesis and nutrition. This project will show we can farm at a commercial level, but it will not be a massive production facility. Our intention is to have a lot of these farms all over. We want to be part of the community, so each farm needs to be right-sized for that place.”
The 80 Acres Farms growing system is water efficient, using 90 percent less water than traditional agriculture. As a completely closed system, the crops will be grown without pesticides. The efficiencies of the process will also increase the crops’ grow cycle.

Lettuce grown in a traditional garden can take 90-120 days from planting to harvest, depending on variables like heat, precipitation and pests. Inside the controlled environment at 80 Acres Farms, that same lettuce could be ready to harvest after 28 days, allowing for 12 crop cycles annually instead of the one or two harvests in traditional agriculture.
“Whether you are using soil or hydroponic methods to grow food, both are capable of providing delicious produce,” Zelkind said. “There really is an art to each method and one has to understand exactly what the plants need environmentally in order to grow a flavorful product. In both cases, an incredibly important aspect are the food miles. The further the product travels, the earlier it had to have been picked, which means the less time it had to develop its full flavor potential.”
80 Acres Farms has been working with small growers in Alabama to perfect its process. The research involves experimenting with temperature and light, as well as the equipment that supports the plants. 80 Acres Farms recently opened a manufacturing facility in Granite Falls, NC, to produce that equipment.

“With any new industry, there are folks trying to figure out the best way to do it,” Zelkind said. “We have an engineering team in North Carolina to build our own grow systems. We’ve teamed up with the best technology to build what will work for our needs.”

80 Acres Farms currently has 23 employees at its various sites. Over the next three years, Zelkind plans to hire 50 additional staff for the Cincinnati location.

“Our mission is to provide healthy, nutritious and affordable local food,” he said. “Our vision is to feed the world with locally grown, fresh and tasty produce, reconnecting people with the food they eat.”

Cincy Metro awarded for sustainability efforts that divert tons from landfill

Cincinnati’s transit agency has been recognized both locally and nationally for its ongoing sustainability programs, which this year included successful efforts to divert nearly 80,000 pounds of waste from local landfills.
In August, Cincy Metro earned The American Public Transportation Association’s bronze-level sustainability award for those and additional efforts to keep our city green.
More recently, Metro received the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District’s “2016 Recycle at Work Program” award.
Metro’s Green Team is made up of employees from around the organization who volunteered to complete the Federal Transportation Administration’s Environmental & Sustainability Management System training. The group is tasked with finding new and innovative ways to make the organization and its practices more environmentally sustainable.
This spring, Metro celebrated its one-year anniversary as part of the American Public Transportation Association and its national transit environmental commitment. During its first year of involvement, Metro recycled 500 pounds in light bulbs alone and reduced trash collection costs by 57 percent.
Metro, a nonprofit, is funded by tax dollars and overseen by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority. It provides about 16 million rides to local residents and visitors annually.
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