80 Acres moves the farm indoors, expands to Boone County

There’s about 75,000 acres of farmland in Boone County. Now you can add 80 Acres to that.

80 Acres, the Hamilton, Ohio-based indoor lettuce, tomato, and berry growing operation, plans to open a new, under-roof, vertical farming facility later this year in Boone that could eventually employ 125 people.

The operation will be a high-tech, controlled-environment, vertical farm, with equipment for harvesting, packaging, and distributing leafy greens, microgreens, berries, and tomatoes. It will have the capacity to grow millions of servings of local, fresh produce for the region, the company says.

“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,” says 80 Acres CEO Mike Zelkind.

80 Acres' expansion into Kentucky was one of two significant job announcements recently.

Levi Strauss & Co. said it would establish an e-commerce distribution center in Erlanger, creating about 300 jobs and investing more than $48 million.
The apparel company plans to lease and upgrade an existing 575,700-square-foot facility at 660 Erlanger Road, which it expects to open in early 2023. Levi Strauss already operates in Kentucky, including two distribution-related facilities in Hebron, employing about 300.

80 Acres is a company at the forefront of hydroponic farming. It operates indoor farms using renewable energy and no pesticides. The company’s flagship farm, located in Hamilton, can grow 10 million servings of produce annually, the company says.

Founded in 2015, the company now operates eight farms and produces salad blends, microgreens, tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers, with plans to begin production of strawberries. It supplies more than 300 Kroger stores nationwide, as well as other regional grocers.

The operation will locate in an existing 200,000-square-foot building on a site of more than 22 acres.

Kentucky’s food, beverage, and agritech sector currently includes more than 350 facilities and employs over 52,000 people, Gov. Andy Beshear’s office says. Since the start of 2020, new location and expansion projects in the industry are expected to create more than 2,600 full-time jobs with over $1.8 billion in new investments.

 State economic development officials approved a 10-year, performance-based incentive agreement with the company. 80 Acres will be eligible for up to $2 million in tax incentives based on its planned investment of $74 million and reaching annual targets of:
  • Creating and maintaining 125 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs over 10 years.
  • Paying an average hourly wage of $45, including benefits, across those jobs.
State officials also approved up to $250,000 in tax incentives to allow the company to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development, and electronic processing.

State officials also approved Levi Strauss for up to $900,000 in tax incentives. The company can also can receive state assistance in the form of no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost custom training, and job-training incentives.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.