A new breed of hydroponic farm, huge and high-tech, is popping up in indoor spaces all over America, drawing celebrity investors and critics.
MOREHEAD, Ky. — In this pretty town on the edge of coal country, a high-tech greenhouse so large it could cover 50 football fields glows with the pinks and yellows of 30,600 LED and high-pressure sodium lights.
Inside, without a teaspoon of soil, nearly 3 million pounds of beefsteak tomatoes grow on 45-feet-high vines whose roots are bathed in nutrient-enhanced rainwater. Other vines hold thousands of small, juicy snacking tomatoes with enough tang to impress Martha Stewart, who is on the board of AppHarvest, a start-up that harvested its first crop here in January and plans to open 11 more indoor farms in Appalachia by 2025.
In a much more industrial setting near the Hackensack River in Kearny, N.J., trays filled with sweet baby butterhead lettuce and sorrel that tastes of lemon and green apple are stacked high in a windowless warehouse — what is known as a vertical farm. Bowery, the largest vertical-farming company in the United States, manipulates light, humidity, temperature and other conditions to grow produce, bankrolled by investors like Justin Timberlake, Natalie Portman, and the chefs José Andrés and Tom Colicchio.