FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 14, 2023) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear highlighted further momentum within Kentucky’s agritech sector as he congratulated 80 Acres Farms on the grand opening of the company’s new vertical farming facility in Boone County, which will create 125 well-paying jobs with an investment of up to $95 million.
“Kentucky’s growth in the agritech sector is a key part of our commonwealth’s surging and versatile economy, which is creating quality job opportunities for all Kentuckians,” Gov. Beshear said. “I had the chance to tour this incredible facility Tuesday, and seeing this project firsthand was impressive. This is a major project for Northern Kentucky, and I am very pleased to see 80 Acres Farms’ facility fully operational.”
Announced in January 2022, the facility is located in an existing 200,000-square-foot building on more than 22 acres, making it the company’s largest and most advanced farm to date. The new facility is three times larger than 80 Acres Farms’ previous largest farm and capable of producing four times more food. The facility has been converted into a vertical farming operation to serve the local market and includes high-tech indoor vertical farm and harvesting, as well as packaging and distribution capabilities. Initially, the operation will grow greens, basil and microgreens with the capability to produce other crops such as berries and tomatoes. The controlled-environment farm will produce tens of millions of servings of local, fresh produce for the surrounding area.
“We’re proud to bring 200,000 square feet of next-generation farming to Boone County,” said 80 Acres Farms CEO and Co-Founder Mike Zelkind. “Kentucky’s leadership in agritech has made this possible, and now, our new neighbors can reap the benefits – from the revitalized building and property to the high-quality farming jobs to the year-round supply of fresh, healthy local produce. We hope this is just the beginning of our collaboration with the commonwealth.”
Founded in 2015, 80 Acres Farms operates indoor farms using 100% renewable energy and without the use of pesticides. The company’s flagship farm, located in Hamilton, Ohio, has the capacity to grow 10 million servings of produce annually. The company currently operates four farms and produces a range of food products, including salad blends, microgreens, tomatoes, basil and recently launched ready-to-eat salad kits. 80 Acres Farms has been a supplier to Kroger since 2019, starting with a single store in downtown Cincinnati and growing to more than 300 stores across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky in 2021. In August 2023, Kroger announced a plan to increase 80 Acres’ services by supplying nearly 1,000 Kroger stores across the Midwest and Southeast.
Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore congratulated 80 Acres Farms on the opening of its new vertical farming facility in Northern Kentucky: “80 Acres Farms is bringing fresh produce grown in Boone County to markets and Kroger stores throughout the Midwest. We are proud to have their second high-tech, vertical indoor farm in Northern Kentucky.”
BE NKY Growth Partnership CEO Lee Crume noted 80 Acres Farms was founded in the Cincinnati region and the Northern Kentucky vertical farm is their newest in the region.
“80 Acres Farms is growing rapidly, and I congratulate its leaders on this important milestone – the opening of this new farm in a repurposed existing building,” said Crume. “Northern Kentucky’s location, infrastructure, and access to college graduates make the region ideal for food and flavoring companies.”
80 Acres Farms’ investment and job creation furthers recent economic momentum in the commonwealth.
In August, Gov. Beshear reported that General Fund receipts for July 2023 totaled $1.1 billion, marking the 11th straight month with revenues over $1 billion. The Governor also recently announced that his administration secured the largest General Fund budget surplus and Rainy Day Fund.
The General Fund budget surplus at the end of fiscal year 2023 was more than $1.55 billion. Nearly all of the $1.55 billion surplus will go into the commonwealth’s Rainy Day Fund, bringing the fund to a record balance of $3.7 billion – a 2,700% increase since Gov. Beshear took office in 2019.
This year, the Governor announced that Kentucky set the record for the longest period with the lowest unemployment rates in state history.
Since the beginning of his administration, Gov. Beshear has announced more than 880 private-sector new-location and expansion projects totaling approximately $27 billion in announced investments. This is the highest investment figure for any governor in state history.
The robust job creation has been accompanied by rising wages across the commonwealth. The average incentivized hourly wage in 2022 was $26.78 before benefits, the second-highest mark since 2010 and an 11.5% increase over the previous year.
The Governor also secured the best two-year period in state history for economic growth and announced the two largest economic development projects in state history. In September 2021, Gov. Beshear and leaders from Ford Motor Co. and SK On celebrated a transformative $5.8 billion investment that will create 5,000 jobs in Hardin County. In April 2022, the Governor was joined by leadership at AESC to announce a $2 billion investment that will create 2,000 jobs in Warren County. These announcements solidify Kentucky as the EV battery production capital of the United States.
That position was strengthened even further in May 2023, when the Governor and leaders at Toyota announced a $591 million investment across multiple projects as the company’s largest manufacturing operation in Georgetown introduced its first battery electric vehicle. Growth within the EV sector continued into June as Gov. Beshear joined INFAC North America to break ground on the company’s $53 million investment to support EV-related production in Campbellsville.
Over a two-month period this year, Kentucky secured two credit rating increases from major agencies. On May 12, Gov. Beshear announced that his administration obtained the first state-level credit rating upgrade in 13 years and the first-ever upgrade from Fitch Ratings. On June 29, Gov. Beshear announced the commonwealth received its first-ever rating increase from S&P Global Ratings.
Site Selection magazine recently placed Kentucky first in the South Central region and top-5 nationally in its 2023 Prosperity Cup ranking, which recognizes state-level economic development agencies for their success in landing capital investment projects. The publication also placed Kentucky second nationwide and first in the South Central region for its annual Governor’s Cup ranking for 2022, which recognizes state-level economic success based on capital investments.
Gov. Beshear also announced a new “Supply Kentucky” initiative with the goal of boosting job growth, reducing costs and providing more security in the supply chains of our Kentucky companies.
To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in January 2022 preliminarily approved an incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can tax incentives based on the company’s investment and annual job and wage targets.
Additionally, KEDFA approved the company for further incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA). KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.
By meeting its annual targets over the agreement term, the company can be eligible to keep a portion of the new tax revenue it generates. The company may claim eligible incentives against its income tax liability and/or wage assessments.
In addition, the company can receive resources from Kentucky’s workforce service providers. Those include no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job-training incentives.
For more information on 80 Acres Farms, visit 80AcresFarms.com.
A detailed community profile for Boone County can be viewed here.
More information on the Governor’s AgriTech Initiative is available at AgriTech.ky.gov.
Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at CED.ky.gov. Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion at facebook.com/CEDkygov, on Twitter @CEDkygov, Instagram @CEDkygov and LinkedIn.