Hardee County, Florida
Drs. Halton Peters and Tyler Jacoby opened the United States’ only certified organic, vertical farm with one goal in mind — grow the freshest, best tasting organic greens and offer them year-round at accessible prices.
Today, Hardee Fresh is the largest indoor vertical farm in the United States.
Hardee Fresh produces a great variety of green leafy vegetables, all USDA certified organic, across eight layers of a vertical profile, and all inside a 54,000 square foot building located in Hardee County, Florida.
Halton, Tyler and their team produce lettuces including butterhead, mini romaine, green oak leaf, green leaf and red oak leaf; herbs including basil, cilantro, parsley, thyme, rosemary and dill; and power greens including rainbow chard, white swiss chard and kale.
The hallmarks of Hardee Fresh
Hardee Fresh prizes itself on four primary goals: safety, quality, consistency and sustainability.
It all begins with ensuring the safety of their customers, the consumers of their products, and their employees. “We implement industry-leading food safety standards,” Halton said.
Next, comes quality. For Halton, providing delicious, fresh produce to all consumers, regardless of who they are is very important at Hardee Fresh. “Whether you're a chef or a family eating at home, these are the best organic greens that you have ever tasted,” he said.
At Hardee Fresh, they also focus a great deal of energy on consistency. Growing indoors, year-round gives Hardee Fresh the opportunity to really hone their skills. “We harvest every week, we plant every week and we ship every week, meaning that you're guaranteed freshness, quality and availability 52 weeks a year from produce that's produced here in central Florida and immediately available to our customers,” Halton said.
Last, but not least, Hardee Fresh is deeply committed to sustainability, employing unique approaches to food production to ensure their business has minimal environmental impact. “Hardee Fresh has implemented industry-leading and, in some cases, completely novel technologies and energy efficiency protocols designed to reduce our carbon footprint and ensure that there are no harmful chemicals or harmful discharges that are used anywhere on our produce or that make their way into the environment,” Halton said.
More on sustainability
Hardee Fresh is 100 percent pesticide-free, herbicide-free and fungicide-free. They also power their facilities with renewable energy.
A tech-first approach to farming allows Hardee Fresh to continuously monitor (onsite and remotely) the key factors that go into producing their products. Because the farm exists completely indoors, they can control water quality, nutrient concentrations, temperature, humidity and other environmental parameters, creating the optimal growing conditions for their greens.
Farming vertically 365 days a year allows Hardee Fresh to harvest 500 acres worth of produce with just one acre of land, 99 percent less land than traditional farms, preserving the land for future generations.
They irrigate with water from their own well, then collect it and reprocess it, using 95 percent less water than traditional farms.
Hardee Fresh also uses 97 percent less fertilizer than traditional farms; and, their innovative farming practices ensure that there is a 99 percent take rate of fertilizer to their plants, ensuring no leaching of harmful chemicals into groundwater.
How it all got started
Halton’s passion for botany, sustainability and the environment inspired him to start Hardee Fresh in 2017. His prior experience operating other sustainable ventures, combined with a deep technical and scientific grounding, has helped grow Hardee Fresh into the leading organic vertical farm in U.S. Halton has a Ph.D. in Biology and J.D. from Stanford University, an M.Phil in Plant Sciences from the University of Cambridge and a B.A. in Biology from Harvard University.
As Chief Agronomist, Tyler brings precision farming to Hardee Fresh. He oversees the craft cultivation process and uses a data-driven approach to manage the Hardee Fresh ecosystem. A leader in the agricultural field, Tyler has worked with farmers to optimize the quality and yield of their fruit and vegetable harvests. Tyler has a Ph.D. in Horticultural Sciences from the University of Florida and a B.S. in Horticultural Sciences from Florida Southern College.
A pillar of the community
Supporting the educational and economic goals of their employees and the broader community is paramount to Halton and Tyler. Their Wauchula farm is located in a rural county with persistently high unemployment. Because they grow 365 days a year, they employ full-time, year-round farmers with healthcare benefits.
For Halton and Tyler, ending food insecurity in America is critically important and they believe it begins at the local level. While they have been working to ensure that premium organic produce is made accessible to all consumers since 2018, in 2020, they have proudly donated their products to over 20,000 families in need throughout Florida. They plan to continue their commitment to programs with the USDA, The United Way of Central Florida and other charitable organizations for years to come.
Farm Credit, a partner in innovation
Looking to the future, Halton and Tyler are excited for the ways in which Hardee Fresh will continue to grow and evolve.
“As thrilled as we are with where Hardee Fresh is today,” Halton said, “we're even more excited about the future of the company. We look forward to working with Farm Credit of Central Florida in order to achieve that vision of that future.”