From colonial days, Virginia farmers have used greenhouses to grow tobacco seedlings and other plants to get a head start on the growing season. Today, modern aquaculture operations are indoors, and some greenhouses are being used for 12-month crops. It is cost-effective to raise tomatoes and other vegetables in indoor farms, especially in places near urban centers where restaurants peioritize use of locally-sourced materials.
AeroFarms opened a vertical farming facility in 2022 at the Cane Creek Centre Industrial Park in Pittsylvania County near Danville. Its 48 towers, each pver four stories in height, provided the equivalent growing space as 1,000 acres of land.
Climate control within each tower, including LED lighting and aeroponic mist, allowed fine-tuning of the conditions to maximize chemical-free growth of leafy vegetables such as arugula and kale. AeroFarms invested $55 million in the indoor farm. With such a large scale facility, the company planned to sell its crops to large retailers such as WalMart rather than to individual restaurants.
The Virginia Secretary of Agriculture called the building "the future of agriculture," and a company spokesperson said:1
Efforts by economic development officials to make Virginia a leader in "controlled environment agriculture" were enhanced in 2023. A Netherlands-based company that developed industrial machinery for horticulural tasks decided to build its first American operation in Chesterfield County. The assembly and distribution facility was intended to service customers in North and South America.2