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Chicago, Illinois (September, 2012)
A year and two days after the City of Chicago amended zoning codes to allow local urban agriculture, the city of Chicago has moved to the forefront of urban center food production by licensing Chicago’s first indoor (vertical) farm company, SkyyGreens Aquaponics.
Two weeks ago, SkyyGreens Aquaponics became the first and, at present, only licensed indoor farm in Chicago. In July of last year, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel gave a prominent speech highlighting local farms job creation potential within Chicago city limits. Soon thereafter, the city of Chicago’s city council backed the mayor by voting to reduce zoning laws clearing the path for urban farming within Chicago.
SkyyGreens Aquaponics, founded by former classmates from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, was formed out of frustration in trying to source local organic produce year round. Like many urban consumers, Chicagoans were looking for local, organic produce options. However, due the Chicago climate, traditional outdoor farms--even if ‘hyperlocal’ and within city limits--could not satisfy year around demand. SkyyGreens had a solution: take the farm indoors.
In the year following the mayor’s announcement and city council vote, SkyyGreens researched and tested best practices for growing produce indoors. The team also experimented with lighting technology and various aquaponic/hydroponic methods to determine the optimal indoor environment to grow produce. After countless tasting sessions with chefs that featured local produce, the outcome was always the same, “this tastes great, but when will more be available”?
So the SkyyGreens team next tackled the business problem. Can an indoor farm startup become a scalable, profitable enterprise? SkyyGreens put their business assumptions to the test this past summer in the startup capital of the world, Silicon Valley, CA. SkyyGreens presented their business model to a group of venture capitalists and ‘super’ angel investors as part of a business plan competition where SkyyGreens tied for first place. This gave the SkyyGreens team additional confidence that their indoor farm was ready for the market!
Headquartered in Chicago, SkyyGreens is committed to providing local, organic produce to major cities 365 days a year.
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