Regional board approves agreement for AeroFarms to receive $200,000 grant

AeroFarms, the company that announced in December 2019  it would bring 92 jobs to the region and invest $42 million over three years, will get a $200,000 state grant if it meets up to a performance agreement approved Monday by the Danville-Pittsylvania Regional Industrial Facility Authority.

The RIFA board unanimously passed a resolution during its meeting Monday to sign a performance agreement with the company for a $200,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“They have all intention of moving forward with the project in the near future,” said Pittsylvania County Economic Director Matt Rowe. “I think you will see some activity out there soon.”

The company plans to build the largest indoor growing facility to date in Cane Creek Centre, a joint industrial park owned by Danville and Pittsylvania County via the Danville-Pittsylvania Regional Industrial Facility Authority.

AeroFarms specializes in chemical-free vertical farming and announced in December 2019 that it plans to bring 92 jobs and invest about $42 million in the Dan River Region over three years.

The company must meet the jobs and investment goals before it gets the $200,000 from state’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, Rowe said during an interview with the Danville Register & Bee Monday afternoon.

“It’s guaranteeing to them that if they do those things, they’ll get the money,” Rowe said. “The company signed the agreement two weeks ago.”

The agreement is among the company, Danville, Pittsylvania County, RIFA and the state.
The Newark, New Jersey-based company’s process involves growing such crops as leafy green vegetables in stacks at a rate said to be 390 times more productive than field-grown plants. It uses no soil, sunlight or chemicals and takes place indoors, where the environment is brought to the crops.

Vertical growing uses LED lighting and aeroponic mist on leafy greens in stacks that can reach as high as 40 feet. It mists the greens’ roots with nutrients, water and oxygen, using 95% less water than field farming and 40% less than hydroponics, according to the company’s website.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Pittsylvania County, Danville and the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance to secure the project for Virginia.

Incentives for the company include $190,000 in grant money from the Virginia Tobacco Commission, $200,000 from the Governor’s Commonwealth Opportunity Fund and the $200,000 that’s part of the agreement approved by RIFA.

No money will go to the company until it meets its obligations, Rowe said.

Rowe said he was not sure when construction would start on the 150,000-square foot building for AeroFarms.

“Given the COVID situation, I don’t want to go on the record for a specific time,” Rowe said.

Article by John Crane