Plans for Urban Warehouse Farm Growing Again

Posted: Updated:

A project that places sustainable hydroponic farms in unused urban warehouses is ready to expand its reach in Indianapolis while dialing back its carbon footprint at the same time.

Farm 365 opened in late 2015 in the 200 block of South Rural Street, near downtown. Operated by parent company Sustainable Local Foods of Indiana (SLF), the business grows several different kinds of produce entirely indoors beneath LED lights and supports its economically depressed neighborhood at the same time.

Project director and farm manager Jim Bloom had success starting similar farms in Ohio when he was approached by central Indiana retailers who don’t simply want locally-grown food, they want it year round. But Bloom’s farms are meant to grow more than lettuces and herbs.

“It’s a for-profit business, but the primary focus of Farm 365 is creating jobs, assisting in the economic recovery in urban neighborhoods, and growing healthy foods specifically in neighborhoods identified as food deserts,” explains Bloom. “It does have a social entrepreneurship mission.”

The growing operations are also designed with sustainability as their model. Crops are grown vertically, so the acreage is multiplied cubically, not just by square footage. The LED lighting is 85 percent more efficient – and cooler – than sodium lights once standard for indoor farming, and Farm 365 is looking at the very real likelihood of placing solar collectors on the warehouse’s sawtooth roofline to power those LEDs. The ultimate goal of the warehouse farms is to grow food year round in a net-zero energy environment.

Another exciting development on the horizon is the plan to recycle the farm’s moisture in a method Bloom calls “water harvesting.” A dehumidification system will repurpose all the condensation then run it through a reverse-osmosis process, ultimately providing all the water the farm needs. Outdoor, four-season greenhouses are also in the works for next year, allowing the farm to expand food varieties to tomatoes, peppers and strawberries.

Farm 365’s indoor systems will be fully planted by October 1. Bloom says the farm has two fairly large contracts coming due in the fall when other traditional farms’ production trails off. One is a school system and the other a hospital. He says the farm’s aim is not to take away from other markets but to add to them. The year-round growth model translates into year-round employment for the farm workers.

From the site to the employees, “We are 100-percent neighborhood-focused,” says Bloom. “Our goal is that at least 75-percent of our workers live in an adjacent neighborhood, and, as much as possible, to employ workers from the neighborhood so that people can ride a bike to work.”

Farm 365 and Sustainable Local Foods of Indiana are owned by a small consortium of private investors and one community economic development corporation, Englewood EDC. The requirement of a key partner being non-profit meets the strategy of the business revitalizing the economy of the immediate neighborhood. The City of Indianapolis lent assistance at the outset, helping create the farm with a combination of public and private funds.

The group already has a new urban farm warehouse in the works for 2017, in yet another of Indianapolis’ food deserts. Bloom says Indianapolis has the most identified food deserts of any major U.S. city, and SLF would be happy to put a farm in each of those 15 areas.

“$1.8 billion is spent on what we grow,” he explains. “But 93 percent is shipped here from 1,500 miles away or more. We should be growing that here, keeping the money here and employing people here, but it’s critical to have community support. This is a collaborative effort. This isn’t a company making a difference, it’s a community saying we want to change hunger and we want to change the economy.”

Farm manager Jim Bloom explains how recaptured water leads to healthier plants.
  • Perspectives

    • Market Volatility - Fodder for Financial Fears

      Fact: The value of the stock market goes up and down.  It’s called “market volatility”.  How concerned should you be with a thousand point change in the index? Since your reaction can impact your personal portfolio, it’s most important that you have a good perspective. Significant price movements in the stock market grabbed headlines and captivated media pundits throughout 2018. The last week of the year the market experienced large price swings...



  • Most Popular Stories

    • Indiana Liquor Group to Buy Save-On Liquor Chain

      Indiana Liquor Group LLC will work with the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission this week for final approval of its purchase of Save-On Liquor stores. Our partners at The Herald Bulletin report Phillip E. Miller agreed to sell the 31-location package store chain to ILG last month. 

    • Books & Brews Acquires Flat12 Bierwerks

      Indianapolis-based Books & Brews has announced its acquisition of Flat12 Bierwerks, also based in Indy. Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed, however Books & Brews says it will continue to operate Flat12 under the same brand name. The acquisition is a continuation of an existing partnership between the two entities. Books & Brews says Flat12 has been a brewery partner for the past two years, brewing all of B&B's flagship and seasonal beers.

    • New Tourism Director Has Plans For Growth

      The new director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development says she hopes to create a strategic plan to continue the growth of tourism in the state. Misty Weisensteiner began her new role earlier this month after being appointed by Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch in December. The former executive director of the Orange County Economic Development Partnership says tourism and economic development go hand-in-hand and there needs to be a greater focus on that relationship.

    • Loeb Stadium Project in Final Design Phase

      The $17 million overhaul of Loeb Stadium in Lafayette is in its final planning stages. The Journal & Courier says the overall design of the project is complete, which includes flipping the field, an additional suite and a new entrance designed to be a more visible landmark. Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski unveiled plans for the reimagining of the more than 75-year-old stadium in 2017. The city council earlier this month approved a $17 million bond to fund the project.

    • BMWC Constructors Announce Leadership Changes

      Indianapolis-based BMWC Constructors, Inc. continues their strategic growth with leadership changes. Chairman of the Board Jim Davis retired after eight years in the role and after 30 years with the company.  President and Chief Executive Officer Brian Acton will move into the role of Chairman of the Board, while remaining CEO.