Vertical Harvest has come so far since the seed of an idea in 2008. Today, we are building a company that grows best-in-class produce that maximizes taste, nutrition, and reliability for our customers and communities. We are doing this by being smarter, greener and more equitable than traditional agriculture has ever been able to be.

Caroline and I sat down recently with the Vertical Farming Podcast to share our journey from unexpected farmers to leaders of a fast-moving organization on the precipice of strengthening local food and job security in communities nationwide.

Hear the full story of how Vertical Harvest started, why we believe vertical farming must be a movement, what we are doing to turn the challenges of the industry into opportunities…and when Caroline and I decided to dive in and take on this wild and ambitious endeavor.

As I said in the podcast, “When it was just about food, I was like, ‘This is a cool idea. I’m excited to be a part of it.’ But when it was about food and futures, something that is so personal to me and to so many people in our country, it really became a must. It wasn’t an option anymore; we had to follow through with it.”

We share all that and more on the Vertical Farming Podcast with Harry Duran. Click and listen!

Vertical Harvest Receives 3 Honorable Mentions from Esteemed World Changing Ideas Awards

May 4, 2021 — The winners of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards were announced this morning, and we were beyond thrilled to receive three Honorable Mentions in the Best World Changing Idea North America, Food, and Social Justice categories. Now in its fifth year, the awards honor the products, concepts, companies, policies, and designs that are pursuing innovation for the good of society and the planet.

“We are so very honored to be chosen and showcased among some of the world’s most inventive entrepreneurs and companies tackling exigent global challenges,” says Nona Yehia, Vertical Harvest Co-Founder and CEO. “It just reconfirms that our profitable model enables the progress we want to see in our communities. Vertical Harvest is leading the way in this fast-growing industry to outline a new way forward in strengthening job and food security, and in enhancing community through a business model that focuses on being smarter, greener, and more equitable,” she said. “I’m so proud and humbled to receive this award and to lead this paradigm-shifting organization.” 

A panel of eminent Fast Company editors and reporters selected winners and finalists from a pool of more than 4,000 entries across transportation, education, food, politics, technology, and more. The 2021 awards feature entries from across the globe, from Brazil to Denmark to Vietnam. Vertical Harvest was one of only 800 Honorable Mentions. 

Combined with the Champions of Change award from CNN last fall, as well as the recent segment on the Today Show, and timely features in Architectural Record and Feast and Field, Vertical Harvest’s profile is rising fast on all fronts. 

Nona was selected for the inaugural advisory board of Indoor Ag-Con, the nation’s premier trade show for the indoor agriculture/vertical farming industry to be held in October. She also will be speaking at Indoor Ag Tech on June 24 in the session, Scaling at Speed: Delivering the Promises of a Mission-Led Industry.

Read the Fast Company announcement and full list of winners and honorees here.

While it is always hard to say goodbye to a long-standing local business like Jackson Whole Grocer, Vertical Harvest is very excited to welcome Whole Foods Market to Jackson. Whole Foods Market’s commitment to the community and the environment align nicely with our own mission and focus and will help drive positive change throughout our community and beyond. And, Whole Foods Market is helping Vertical Harvest grow in a number of ways.

Our Sales Director, Emily Peterson, lays it all out below.

  1. Blog Team: Will Whole Foods Market Jackson carry Vertical Harvest products?
    Emily: Yes. Not only will you still see our current grocery products at Whole Foods Market, the company is encouraging us to develop and offer even more. We’re also excited to remain on the shelves alongside many other local products, such as Teton Valley Honey, Bovine & Swine, High Point Cider, Snake River Roasting, and many others.
  2. Blog Team: How do you think Whole Foods Market will support our community?
    Emily: In talking with them I have learned that they have already signed on to be a co-challenger sponsor of the 2021 Old Bill’s Fun Run (a non-profit near and dear to our hearts). Plus, the company’s charitable arms are open wide in Jackson already. They are accepting applications for non-profit giving at this link. Donations are distributed once per quarter (or 4 times/year). In addition, The Whole Kids Foundation awarded gardening grants to local schools, including Jackson Hole Middle School, Teton School District 401, Summit High School, and Alta Elementary. I understand that Whole Foods Market also is now providing surplus food to Hole Food Rescue, a local organization that serves food insecure residents of Teton County.  
  3. Blog Team: How can Whole Foods Market specifically benefit Vertical Harvest?
    Emily: The company is providing Vertical Harvest mentorship in many areas to help us better position ourselves in the grocery industry. The Whole Foods market team answers any questions we have regarding the company and even beyond. For example, they’ve helped us navigate distribution channels that are familiar to them, but new to us. They’ve supported improvements in our food safety program and have even offered advice on efficiency challenges we face in the greenhouse. Finally, they keep us abreast of fresh produce trends nationwide, and assist us with product development ideas based on sales data and other insights. We look forward to continuing this growing relationship as we open farms in other areas of the country.

 

Feast and Field just gets us. A wonderful new article from this online publication truly captures the Vertical Harvest story. From our dedicated employees, to our farm’s unique architectural design, to our social impact mission and expansion plans, this profile covers it all.

The accompanying photos from local Jackson photographer Shivyon Mitchell also beautifully capture the vibrant energy of our team members and the unique growing environment of the architectural marvel that is our greenhouse.

Click here to read the article and peruse the photos on the Feast and Field website.

 

Based on the meal-driven concept of our new Crisp Cuisine Boxes, Vertical Harvest’s 2021 Spring Farm Share series will be the most diverse to ever fill your fridge.

Each week you will get something exciting and different from the week before and it will lean toward a specific type of cuisine (Italian, Asian, etc.). We’ll also include recipe suggestions and ideas.

Your purchase of a Farm Share supports Vertical Harvest in so many ways. It allows us to anticipate production, so we can schedule labor accordingly, and it helps bridge us through a time of off-season restaurant closures. Connect with your team of community farmers by clicking the button below for more information and to buy your share!

6-Week Box Series: $183.60
8-Week Box Series: $244.80
Order Deadline: April 23
Pick Up: Starting April 30 at the greenhouse, 3:30-5:30 pm
Delivery: $10 per order

In an effort to maximize the freshness of Vertical Harvest products, our Microgreen team recently conducted a series of shelf life trials. Included in these first trials were some of our most popular microblends, including Citrus Blend and Spicy Mix.

The goal was to:

  1. Drive quality control and develop shelf turn-over targets for our microgreen blend products
  2. Make Vertical Harvest products easier for our grocery partners to manage by providing more accurate “Sell By” dates
  3. Develop a system by which we could test and improve shelf life for all Vertical Harvest produce

What was the top takeaway? 

The team, lead by Microgreens Associate Ava Reynolds, developed a Freshness Matrix that told us the exact windows of time products would stay the “Most Fresh” on grocery shelves and in a customer’s fridge. Our goal was that the end consumer could have at least four (4) days with the product at peak freshness.

For these initial microgreen blends, we determined that that window was 14 days at this “Most Fresh” level, which, working backward, means:

  • 4 days in customer refrigerator
  • 7 days in grocery store
  • 3 days in distribution transit/in the Vertical Harvest cold room

“This trial was valuable for developing a scale to judge product freshness that can hopefully be utilized in future shelf life trials and easily adapted to products beyond microgreens,” says Hannah Bouline, Vertical Harvest Farm Lead.

“What we learned in the trial will allow us to better understand and regulate our distribution radius for each product, which is imperative as we increase distribution distance and plan for replication of products in future greenhouses.”

Stay tuned as we conduct more tests and continue to improve ways of getting you the freshest greens possible — year-round!

While 2020 was a difficult year in so many ways, there were rays of hope. Part of what made 2020 a hopeful year for us at Vertical Harvest was that it was the year our work and mission seemed to really break through in the media. Below are our Top 5 press hits for 2020 (in cased you missed them!):

  1. CNN. Late in the year we were honored to discover that Vertical Harvest, our team of changemakers, and our CEO Nona Yehia were named a CNN Champion for Change in 2020. This award profiles 10 innovators leading the charge to a better world with new ideas and groundbreaking solutions.
  2. Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien. Early in the year, this detailed feature profiled how here at Vertical Harvest, our unique employment model is creating and expanding economic options and upward mobility for people with disabilities.
  3. News Center Maine. Our expansion to Westbrook, Maine was profiled on this local NBC feature, which underscored our goal to bring 1 million pounds of produce per year to greater Portland, Maine and surrounding areas.
  4. Edible Maine. This well-respected food publication in Maine focused on the importance of vertical farming in making cold climate communities more sustainable.
  5. Produce Grower. We started the year featured on the cover of this well-respected industry magazine, which covered the distinctive architecture off our greenhouse, as well as our Grow Well employment mission.

Keep your eyes peeled for even more coverage in early 2021. Exciting things are on the horizon!

We are excited to announce that our CEO, Nona Yehia, was selected for the inaugural advisory board of Indoor Ag-Con, the nation’s premier trade show for the indoor agriculture/vertical farming industry.

Although with 11 other thought leaders from across the agriculture supply chain – from grocers to commercial real estate — Nona will advise and help shape the educational conference and exhibition floor offerings of the May 2021 edition of Indoor Ag-Con and other new initiatives planned for the coming year.

Spotlighting Successful Indoor Agriculture Businesses

“For 2021, successful indoor agriculture business development strategies will be the primary focus for our event, says Brian Sullivan, co-owner, Indoor Ag-Con. “The insights and intelligence we’ll gather from these successful leaders of indoor agriculture, as well as a number of the sectors our attendees and exhibitors hope to do business with, will go a long way in shaping meaningful content, networking and exhibition opportunities.”

Vertical Harvest’s singular vertical greenhouse structure, integrated employee model, and thoughtful growth strategy make it unique in the indoor agriculture industry, which makes  Nona’s voice crucial in helping to craft this content. “Our Grow Well model and our commitment to employ underserved populations is unique in indoor agriculture,” Nona says. “I’m excited to bring that perspective to the table.”

For 2021, Indoor Ag-Con will co-locate with The National Grocers Association (NGA) Show, the leading trade show and conference for independent grocers. The combined event will be held at the new Caesars Forum Convention Center in Las Vegas from May 16-18, 2021.

Other Advisory Board member include:

  • Samuel Bertram, CEO and Co-Founder, OnePointOne, Inc.
  • Julie Emmett, Senior Director, Retail Partnerships Plant Based Foods Association
  • Greg Ferrara, President & CEO, National Grocers Association
  • Henry Gordon Smith, CEO & Managing Director, Agritecture
  • Marni Karlin, Executive Director, CEA Food Safety Coalition
  • Tracy Lee, Division Lead, CEA Department, Sakata Seed Company
  • Jody McGinness, Executive Director, Hemp Industries Association
  • Tim McGuinness, Sterling Advisory Group & Former SVP, International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)
  • Chris Nemchek, President, Coach Global Solutions & Former SVP, Specialty Food Association
  • Matt Roy, Vice President of Business Development Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), Tanimura & Antle
  • E. Austin Webb, CEO & Co-Founder, Fifth Season, Powered By Robotany

Podcasts are a booming business nowadays, lending insight and introspection on topics far and wide. Nona Yehia, our co-founder and CEO, has been a popular guest recently on programs as diverse as The Evolving Digital Self, which explores conscientious use of technology, to Soul of a Leader, which explores leadership styles that uplift and embrace people.

Evolving Digital Self Podcast

In her conversation with Dr Heidi Forbes Oste of The Evolving Digital Self, Nona discussed the power of architecture to be a vehicle for social change, and shared why providing a career path to community members with disabilities is vital to Vertical Harvest’s mission. “The disabled community is the largest in the nation, and one that anyone could become a part of in the blink of an eye,” she said. 

Oste heralded the work of the Vertical Harvest team as, “not just using technology in a cool way, but using it in a way that looks at the full systemic perspective of what it can do.” Nona agreed that while technology makes life easier for most people, for those in the disabled community, it truly makes life possible.

Listen to this fascinating conversion here, or download from your favorite podcast player.

Vertical Harvest is paving the way to an even more sustainable future with two recent changes:

  1. Transforming the vast majority of our produce waste into fertilizer, and
  2. Switching to 99% compostable packaging 

Greenhouse Waste = Fertilizer

Working with WyoFarm Composting, each week we send 320 gallons of produce waste to decompose into fertilizer instead of rotting in a landfill. Most of what we use to grow food — cellulose medium, peat moss plugs, hemp — and our vegetable waste now composts down into a substance that will be used to grow even more food. “It feels great to contribute to this full circle,” says Molly Belk, Vertical Harvest Packaging Coordinator.

Composting can help tackle global warming by diverting organic waste away from landfills where it produces methane. Decomposed waste then creates a natural fertilizer for plants that can replace nitrogen fertilizers, which produce nitrous oxide, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. It’s a win-win all around.

A Shift to Plastic-Free Packaging

Vertical Harvest also is converting to 99% compostable packaging made by Good Natured. All of our microgreens are now packaged in this compostable, plastic-free option. Durable, plant-based, and with a built-in snap seal, your Vertical Harvest greens will stay fresh in your fridge for days. We currently are in the process of transitioning our lettuce packaging, as well, and hope to have all of our packaging updated in 2021.