An international indoor farming company has chosen to locate one of its largest facilities in southern Luzerne County.
Crop One Holdings, which has vertical farms in Massachusetts and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, recently announced plans to locate a farm in the Humboldt Industrial Park in Hazle Township.
An existing building at 405 Stony Creek Road, will be customized to give Crop One more than 316,000 square feet. It also gives them the ability to produce 7 tons of produce (romaine lettuce and spring mix) per day once fully operational in 2024.
The farm, which is the first of 10 the company plans to build over the next five years, will create approximately 40 jobs, including both managerial and farm production roles.
Vertical farming is a form of agriculture in which produce is grown on shelves in stacked layers in a controlled environment without soil.
“With this expansion into Pennsylvania, we’re able to reach a new audience as we scale our business and execute on our ambitious five-year growth plan,” said Craig Ratajczyk, CEO at Crop One.
“This new farm will enable us to meet growing retailer demand, while simultaneously introducing new consumers across the tristate area to the benefits of hydroponically grown produce.”
Currently, Crop One bills its Dubai location as the world’s largest hydroponic vertical farm, with an output of three tons daily.
The Pennsylvania location will surpass that mark when it begins production in 2024.
Ratajczyk said the new location in northeastern Pennsylvania checks all the boxes, as it’s close to primary transportation routes, has an ample local workforce and is strategically located within a 200-mile radius of 50 million consumers in the New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore metropolitan areas.
“It is one of the densest populated places in the country, and this allows us to reach those consumers from a central hub,” Ratajczyk said. “That’s a critical component of this siting.”
Crop One has worked closely with CAN DO, a Hazleton-based economic development group, on making the project a reality.
A long-term lease for the space has been negotiated with PNK group. Savills U.S represented Crop One in the transaction.
“CAN DO is proud to add Crop One to the wide array of industries located within Humboldt Industrial Park. Given the state-of-the-art technology that will be integrated into the facility as well as the 40 family-sustaining jobs that will be created, this project will provide an immediate impact to our community,” said Joseph Lettiere, CAN DO President and CEO.
“And, since Crop One will be developing a sustainable food source within a controlled environment, CAN DO will also be welcoming what can be considered the next generation of farming to Greater Hazleton.”
The company claims that its Plants-First technology platform allows them to grow leafy greens using 95% less water than field-grown produce.
The building that will be home for the new location has 40-foot high ceilings that Ratajczyk said allows for increased volume.
The commercial-scale farm will primarily grow romaine lettuce and spring mix, serving retailers, food service providers and other partners located within proximity to the facility, ensuring produce is packaged and on store shelves within 24 hours.
Ratajczyk said Crop One’s proprietary growing method focuses on processing water in combination with its own nutrient base that results in the removal of contaminants, including PFAS, also known as forever chemicals.
The location, he added, will also help lessen the impact of any supply chain issues for retailers.
“We know there’s a massive trend for people to move to urban areas, and those population bases are going to continue to increase,” Ratajczyk said.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have food produced right down the road from those urban centers, rather than it being brought in from 1,000 miles away?
“If you’re a retailer, it’s such an extreme risk. Now, the food is produced right on your doorstep.”
Crop One currently operates a farm at its headquarters in Millis, Massachusetts, which has been in continuous commercial operation since 2015.
Russell Redding, Pennsylvania’s agriculture secretary, said controlled agriculture systems, such as Crop One, help diversify the state’s $132.5 billion agriculture industry.
“These new job opportunities feed our economy and bring people with different abilities and skills to the table, putting climate-smart technology to work to feed consumer demand for fresh, local produce,” Redding said.