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$750 million hydroponics plant moves ahead in Baker County (Courtesy of the Jacksonville Business Journal) — Plant Agricultural Systems will develop an 8.1 million-square-foot hydroponics plant in Sanderson, with the company saying the $750 million project will lead to 600 jobs over the coming eight years.

To support the Baker County project, the state will provide a $2.29 million grant to fund the construction of entrance road infrastructure at the Woodstock Industrial property, where the facility will be located.

Fort Lauderdale-based Plant Agricultural Systems provides physical and digital infrastructure to grow fresh produce, saying it looks to “dynamically enable society’s transition to more sustainable methods of food production, distribution, and consumption.”

Plant Agricultural Systems founder Karim Giscombe has been working on bringing his vision for the agricultural system of the future into reality for several years, telling Fast Company in 2021 that he was looking to raise about $9 billion for the project, including an operation near Jacksonville.

The company said the Baker County project is part of its first phase of developing nearly 2,000 acres of “controlled environment agriculture” production.

That phase also includes 1,100 acres of production space in West Texas, with the The Lubbock Economic Development Alliance announcing last month that the company was developing a $670 million plant there. In December, Plant Agriculture said it was acquiring MightyVine, a glasshouse tomato producer in Rochelle, Illinois.

“The end-to-end impact PLANT-AS will have on existing food systems begins with the agricultural process and extends all the way through the consumer experience,” Plant Director of Global Brand Representation Sara Gaul said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be a part of the economic growth in North Florida. Together, we are building infrastructure for the future, and people are at the core of everything.”

The Sanderson plant will be solar-powered, the company said, and the production process will use 70% to 90% less water than conventional agriculture.

The facility on 772 acres near U.S. 90 and Interstate 10 will grow produce like leafy greens and vine crops such as tomatoes. Operations are expected to begin about two years after the company closes on the land.

“Plant Agricultural Systems’ Controlled Environment Agriculture Distributed Network Production Facility in Baker County will be transformational for our county. The capital investment, employee wages and benefits and overall economic impact will certainly bring about the most positive growth that a rural county can ever experience,” said Darryl Register, executive director of the Baker County Development Commission and the Baker County Chamber of Commerce.

Photo courtesy of Business Facilities Magazine