Wilder Fields will begin construction this fall, repurposing a former Target location located at 1717 W. East Road in Calumet City, Illinois. Once completed, the 135,000-square-foot former big box store will serve as a vertical farm.
“When I learned about the possibility of acquiring a Super Target store in Calumet City, I knew it would be the perfect choice for building Wilder Fields’ first full-scale commercial vertical farm,” said Jake Counne, founder of Wilder Fields. “From the very beginning, we have developed our system to be flexible enough to fit existing buildings, including anchor retail spaces like this one.”
The majority of space will house 24 separate cleanrooms for growing dozens of varieties of greens. The site will also include a retail store and education center, a research laboratory and a large loading dock which will serve as a hub for distributing produce to supermarkets and select restaurants within 100 miles of this next-generation vertical farm.
“To my knowledge, converting a big box space to a farm has never been done before,” Counne said. “We are creating the blueprint for this transformation.”
Construction is planned for two phases. Phase one, to be completed in early 2021, includes building critical infrastructure and an initial group of cleanrooms. Each 105,000-cubic-foot cleanroom will house eight levels of growing space along with the proprietary technology created by Wilder Fields’ experts to provide a safe and efficient growing environment. The second phase will be completed in early 2023.
The enterprise is funded by Counne and a group of strategic private investors. The total cost for the Wilder Farms’ first facility is estimated at $40 million.
“We made vertical farming profitable by looking at industries outside of farming for inspiration to reduce the costs of labor and energy. We have improved the ways plants are grown, harvested and shipped,” said Counne. “By negotiating mutually beneficial relationships with city leaders, we can convert abandoned big box stores—currently blighting commercial real estate markets—into profitable, tax-paying businesses.”