Sprawled inside an industrial building at the Century City Business Park on Milwaukee’s northwest side is an urban farm known as Hundred Acre. Run by New York-based startup Planet to Plate Inc., the vision of the enterprise is to address food insecurity and build a more sustainable supply chain for food businesses. Already in its 14th month of operation, the farm has struggled to keep up with demand for its flagship products: salad mix and Italian large leaf basil. In a recent interview with BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Ashley Smart, Planet to Plate founder Chris Corkery shared plans to open a second facility in Milwaukee by the end of this year, allowing the farm to scale production by 400 times its current volume of 1,500 pounds per week. The following portions of their conversation are edited for length and clarity.
Plans for the second location
“The location of the new facility is under lock and key, unfortunately. It’s a larger deal with a real estate investment group that is looking to acquire (the building) and be our landlord. We’re focused heavily on the city limits and would be going into an industrial style warehouse and/or a discontinued type of office space. It’s kind of the solution we provide on the real estate front because those spaces are otherwise vacant.
“At the end of the day, farming is heavily tied to real estate. If we can do it at one location, why can’t we do this in multiple locations across southeastern Wisconsin, or even just Milwaukee, and develop a full-scale network of indoor production facilities?”
What about the existing facility?
“The intent is to keep the current facility operational as a training and research and development lab. We are committed to that community. We’re committed to each location we go into. We’re not looking to go into one (location) to then build another and leave.
“Generally, we’ve developed a remarkable training program for folks who want to get into the world of urban ag-tech. It’s not just the number of jobs (that benefits the community), but the increased access to this kind of fresh food system, with the educational programs that we run on a weekly basis.”
“Hundred Acre exists as a rapid response to an ailing food system. The catalyst was the pandemic. You had a lot of unused real estate, distribution problems from A to Z for various products, growing environmental concerns and social unrest growing across the country. We thought this was just bringing a lot of things together and addressing a lot of issues with both old school and new school solutions.
“We just landed a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, so we are the salad supplier across American Family Field, which goes through a tremendous amount now that they’ve revamped their food programs. Last year, in our first year of business, we grew, harvested and distributed 20,000 salad portions to underserved communities locally through our new partner Feeding America. We also rolled out our retail offering with partner Outpost Natural Foods. We’re focused overall on increasing the availability, awareness and consumption of locally grown fresh crops.”