DANVILLE, Va. (WSET) — Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that AeroFarms will invest $53 million to build an indoor vertical farm in Cane Creek Centre, a joint industrial park for the City of Danville and Pittsylvania County.
AeroFarms uses proprietary aeroponic growing technology to produce highly flavorful leafy greens at a rate 390-times more productive than field-grown plants.
"AeroFarms fits perfectly in this region because agriculture has been our number one industry forever," said Bob Warren, the chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors.
The farm will bring 92 new jobs to the area.
"This is a project that is incredibly simple," said Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones. "It's got food. It's got jobs. It makes use of a great location. And from Danville to Richmond and beyond, we worked together to make it happen."
AeroFarms CEO David Rosenberg says this will be the company's largest facility. He says there's a reason they chose Pittsylvania County.
"That's because of the strong business community," Rosenberg said. "So the team here made that decision very easy."
The project was first announced in December 2019 but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its start. It also hurt unemployment in the area. Governor Ralph Northam says this facility will help turn that around, bringing nearly 100 jobs to the Southside.
"We're doing everything that we can to train and re-train individuals to get back into the workforce," Governor Northam said. "So, I'm confident. They wouldn't have come here if they were concerned about the workforce."
Rosenberg says the company will work to train unskilled workers. He adds they'll work with Danville and Pittsylvania County leaders on advancing farming in the area.
"There's a lot to be proud of, a lot of innovation that the community should have pride in," Rosenberg said. "And we're going to work with the tech leaders, and figure out how we take agriculture to new heights."
“AeroFarms is a leader in agricultural innovation with farming technologies that make high-quality, local produce available to more communities,” said Northam. “We are bringing capital investment and economic opportunity to rural Virginia by recruiting innovative companies like AeroFarms. I thank the company for choosing Virginia for this important venture and commend Danville-Pittsylvania County for helping to secure this project.”
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The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Pittsylvania County, the City of Danville, and the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance to secure the project.
In addition, Northam said he approved a $200,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund and a $200,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund, to assist Danville-Pittsylvania County with this project.
“We’re pleased that AeroFarms has selected the Cane Creek Centre for their new mid-Atlantic facility”, said Robert “Bob” Warren, Vice-Chairman of the Danville-Pittsylvania Regional Industrial Facility Authority and member of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. “It is only appropriate that the largest county in the Commonwealth by land area will soon be home to the world’s largest and most advanced vertical farm. The region has placed a heavy emphasis on attracting technology-based agribusiness firms through strategic investments in our workforce, and we thank AeroFarms for their commitment to Southern Virginia and its people.”
There's no timeline yet on when this facility will be complete. AeroFarms says by next year, they'll be selling products online.