The founder of a Portage-based commercial farming operation believes his indoor farming methods can be a sustainable solution throughout the world. Chief Executive Officer Robert Colangelo says Green Sense Farms LLC’s vertical farming model allows consumers to buy produce right where its grown, which can be in a building "virtually anywhere." The company’s goal is to first build networks throughout the U.S., Canada, Scandinavia and China and then continue to spread globally. Plants, which are grown on racks that reach as high as 24 feet, are kept in constant growing conditions through lighting, watering and feeding processes Green Sense Farms says uses only a fraction of the resources of traditional farming techniques.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Colangelo said "we are the modern, new farmer."
Colangelo is a third-generation Chicagoan but says he’s happy to be a transplant in the Indiana agribusiness community, which has been very supportive of what he’s trying to accomplish. He adds that northwest Indiana is an "iconic" location to have a business. "We’re at the bottom of Lake Michigan on the Crossroads of America, Interstate-94 and 65, they tell me that we can reach 80 percent of the U.S. population in a day’s drive from where we’re located."
Colangelo tells Inside INdiana Business all future farms will be located "where large volumes of meals are sold," which includes grocery chain hubs, military bases, corporate campuses, schools or hospitals. "We put our farm here (in Porter County) originally, because we were close to the Midwest distribution center for Whole Foods in Munster," he said. "What we’ve learned is that close isn’t good enough. You really want to be inside the distribution center." The Portage farm, Colangelo says, is the largest commercial, indoor vertical farm in the country.
The company’s first farm in China opened in August and through a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College, Colangelo says ground will be broken soon on a new farm in South Bend, which will supply area universities, hospitals and grocery stores. He says 10 other spots are currently in the development pipeline.
Green Sense Farms says some characteristics of the markets it continues to scout include:
- large population centers
- high numbers of educated consumers who pay a premium for produce that is GMO-, pesticide- and herbicide-free
- produce travels a great distance
- growing seasons are short
- resources like land, clean water and clean air are limited
Colangelo says recently-loosened crowd-funding regulations have opened up his company to more potential investors. Indeed, Green Sense Farms has launched an online fundraising campaign, which has led to commitments totaling more than $200,000 in two weeks. You can connect to more about the crowdfunding efforts by clicking here.
The company released a video explaining its model: