Kalera has turned farming on its head – literally. Based in Orlando, its team of science- and technology-driven horticulturists leverage cleanroom technology, artificial intelligence, the internet-of-things and data analytics to cultivate sustainably grown, fresh produce in vertical hydroponic farms.

Kalera’s co-founders came to Orlando in 2007 with the lofty goal of growing enough produce locally to feed the entire city. In 2018, they opened Kalera’s first hydroponic vertical farm, the HyCube at Orlando World Center Marriott.* The HyCube epitomizes farm-to-table dining, producing 200,000 heads of lettuce each year just a 20 feet away from the hotel kitchen, where guests enjoy lettuce and microgreens cultivated from the hydroponic vertical farm. It’s also eye-catching; through larger-than-life glass walls, visitors can see bright green lettuce peeking over the side of vertical towers stacked floor-to-ceiling. The entire structure is illuminated in a pink glow from red and blue lighting optimized to provide maximum plant yield and quality while minimizing energy costs.

Two successful years since the opening of HyCube, Kalera has now expanded its vision to feed even more residents across the entire city, state and beyond. In February 2020, the company took one step closer to achieving this vision with the opening of another farm in Orlando just northwest of Orlando International Airport – the largest indoor farm in the Southeastern U.S. The farm is expected to produce approximately 6 million heads of lettuce per year, exceeding the amount of lettuce produced annually in the HyCube farm by 30 times. To support these growing operations, Kalera CEO Daniel Malechuk is proud to make hiring local talent a top priority and has already hired graduates from the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida and Florida State University.

Similar to its original location at the Orlando World Center Marriott, this new farm employs proprietary high tech innovation to not only run the farm, but also to ensure ideal conditions for plant growth.

“We’re growing more plants with less space and less water, and with no pesticides or fertilizers,” explained Malechuk. “It’s using things like big data and artificial intelligence to measure temperature, humidity, air flow and light exposure, and analyzing it in a database to see how it affects plant growth and yield.”

Kalera’s indoor farms are unique in shielding both plants and horticulturists from extreme elements that could interrupt production or compromise lettuce crops. Relying on data analytics, the Kalera facility automates various processes to create an ideal, controlled environment for plant growth. From air circulation to carbon dioxide levels, its machines are constantly monitoring feedback from technology embedded in its crops to determine whether adjustments are needed. Kalera’s systems are so accurate that its team can often predict the results of a harvest. As Malechuk explained, they have perfected Mother Nature indoors.

While the controlled indoor environment is certainly impressive, Kalera’s proprietary air purification system truly sets it apart. Taking a page from nanoelectronics manufacturing, Kalera relies on cleanroom technology to eliminate the need for harmful pesticides and safeguard plants against bacteria, such as E. coli, which has caused nationwide recalls of romaine lettuce.

“What we’re witnessing right now in our lifetime, and what I’m so excited to be part of, is the total revolution of agriculture,” said Malechuk. “I don’t know if it’s been coined yet, but I think we’re at the ‘AgTech Age.’”

Much like the smartphone has revolutionized our way of life and become an indispensable tool we often take for granted, Malechuk clearly envisions a society in which vertical hydroponic farms like Kalera’s are the norm – especially in densely populated cities where hyperlocal sustainable farming practices would have a greater impact.

Until that day, Kalera continues with its plan to expand across the continent and around the globe at the forefront of a new “AgTech Age.”

*Kalera’s Orlando facility remains operational despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has donated its leafy greens to multiple charities in the area and has provided free cases of produce to many neighborhoods across the city. Its produce can also be found across all Orlando Publix locations.

As of May 4, 2020, the HyCube facility at the Marriott World Center is operational.

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