HARRISONBURG — Shenandoah Growers, an indoor agriculture company, is undergoing a major expansion to its location in Harrisonburg, which is part of a $100 million investment in the company’s three locations in Virginia over the next year.
The facility, off U.S. 11, packages, receives and ships out produce from the Shenandoah Growers facility off of Koehn Drive, east of Lacey Spring in Rockingham County.
The addition is not for new packaging space, but for agriculture space.
Shenandoah Growers is building a “next-generation indoor bio-farm” onto the packaging facility, said Gilberto Dominguez, the vice president of operations on the East Coast.
“You’ll have seeding, germination, plug production, nursery and final grow out and harvesting,” he said.
The company uses a bioponic, or natural soil-based, approach to indoor plant cultivation.
Basil, for instance, is the company’s most popular product, with almost 50% of production going to the peppery-sweet culinary herb.
They also grow mint, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, thyme and oregano, but “basil is king,” Dominguez said.
“Nature has spent hundreds of millions of years evolving to give us tasteful, sustainable growing systems — what we do is bring that indoors,” he said.
The new setup for the facility is part of a companywide initiative.
The new indoor farm “just so happens to be located right next to our packing facility, so it will literally go across the wall and be packed as soon as it’s harvested,” Dominguez said.
And freshness isn’t the only advantage to the new setup, he said.
As harvesting and packaging can be done in the same facility, it saves costs on transportation and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is the model for start to finish,” Dominguez said. “From the biofarm to the customer — this is going to be our setup.”
And the company is looking at making similar additions to its other packing facilities across the United States within the next five years, he said.
The company has 13 locations in the United States, including Texas, Indiana, Colorado, Arizona and Washington.
At first, the new addition will only require 10 more employees, but that number will likely grow, Dominguez said.
The company is a large employer in the area, with 300 employees in the Valley and 150 in the Harrisonburg facility.
“We’re looking at these next-generation megafactories that will employ 200 teammates at these facilities,” Dominguez said.