What was formerly a concrete parking garage is now a glass and steel structure that entices community members to peer inside. The $3.3 million structure received funding from many different sources, including from Jackson Hole’s restaurant industry and numerous private donors. The transparent exterior allows Vertical Harvest to use the sun as a source of light, similar to a greenhouse, saving energy requirements on indoor grow lights.
Vertical Harvest is dedicated to engaging the Jackson Hole community, in part by offering tours of the facility three times per week.
To encourage more people to enter the facility, the indoor farm also maintains a market—but Vertical Harvest produce is just one part of the store. The shop also carries locally sourced food (think jams, coffee blend and condiments), t-shirts emblazoned with Vertical Harvest’s logo, artisanal candles and locally made pottery. The store will host a winter farmers market, too—a rarity in most agricultural towns, let alone a ski town.
Building a vertical greenhouse in such a harsh environment is tough. Building a vertical greenhouse in a sliver of a parking garage is monumental. It helps that cofounder Nona Yehia is an architect by trade. She partnered with The Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology to design a greenhouse perfectly adapted to Jackson’s climate, altitude, latitude and location for optimal growing success. This vertical carousel of lettuce is located in the main atrium.
While Vertical Harvest is a hydroponic greenhouse—i.e. plants use nutrient-infused water rather than soil to grow—the roots need a medium to latch onto. Here, rockwool, sometimes called mineral wool, provides a stable base for lettuces.
Rockwool is typically made with a combination of basalt rock and chalk.
A fledgling plant rides on a conveyer belt, which allows both sunlight and artificial light to encourage the growing process.
Alternative growing medium
Tomatoes require thick, sturdy growing mediums, such as coconut husk, a byproduct from the booming coconut water industry.
Tasty tomatoes are particularly rare in Jackson Hole during the winter, so they were a priority for Vertical Harvest. But they’re finicky to grow—the greenhouse buys Rebel and Bumblebee cherry tomato starts from a nursery, and tends them into super-long vines suspended from the ceiling.
Located in the tomato greenhouse, these devices measure radiation, temperature and more to help maintain optimal growing conditions.
Bees are released into the tomato greenhouse to pollinate plants—a required process to cultivate the fruits. They're housed in this portable, cardboard hive.
Neon lights help sprout microgreens, fast-growing, flavorful greens that are virtually impossible to obtain during the winter, unless they are trucked over long distances. Microgreens are grown in hemp fiber, which can easily be cut for transport. Window shades are drawn at night to reduce light pollution from the greenhouse into the surrounding neighborhood.
Bread and butter
Through a partnership with Jackson restaurants, microgreens provide ample income for the greenhouse, as they are fast and easy to grow. The greenhouse cultivates nearly 20 varieties of microgreens—a boon for local chefs to add spicy, sweet, tart and bitter flavors to their dishes.
A palate of still-growing microgreens boxed for restaurant delivery. Microgreens can be stored in walk-in refrigerators, allowing chefs to snip what they need, and save the rest, reducing food waste and time between harvest and consumption.
Ready for retail
Striking, modern packaging stands out on store shelves and highlights the local story of this mindful, exceptional vertical farm.