Family-Run Hydroponic Farm Takes Root in Nebraska

A local family is celebrating the launch of a new business centered around serving the Platte Valley community sustainably grown greens using an indoor vertical hydroponic farm.

Thirsty Roots Farm (‘TRF’) is a controlled-climate, water-efficient, tech-assisted vertical hydroponic farm housed inside an upcycled shipping container and is able to grow food year-round.

TRF is a multi generation family business owned and operated by the Kerrs: Jarod, Maggie, Jim, and Nancy. Jarod (2011 Scottsbluff High School alumni) and Maggie Kerr provide the business expertise and entrepreneurial spirit that have brought this innovative vision to life. Jim and Nancy Kerr bring lifelong growing expertise as members of farming families and firsthand knowledge of the Scottsbluff community as residents for over 40 years. Together, they started Thirsty Roots Farm to bring fresh, local, sustainable greens to communities and are starting right here with ROOT 1. This hydroponic farm will look to supply produce to local businesses in order to increase their reach and serve as many people these delicious greens as possible.

As of this week, TRF has launched a partnership with Powerhouse on Broadway, which is located in the City of Scottsbluff and recently opened their doors in January. Unsurprisingly, it is also owned by a longtime local family, Kerri and Dave Schaff. Powerhouse on Broadway specializes in farm-to-table dishes, making Thirsty Roots Farm a premiere partner to serve customers greens grown 4 miles down the road instead of 2,000 miles across the country. The excited growers and chefs have come together to develop specialty salads that will offer patrons a fresh and exciting dining experience. The deep color, variety of textures, and explosion of flavor in the greens combined with the creative vision of the chefs showcase a summer menu to truly be excited about. Also, the flavors extend beyond the salad bowl to their cocktail menu featuring edible flowers and fresh herbs jazzing up their libations. Pro tip: salads and cocktails are best enjoyed on the primetime Powerhouse on Broadway patio right on the new 18th Street Plaza.

The Kerrs are proud to begin their entrepreneurial journey with ROOT 1 to bring nutritious produce to this community that deserves high quality food and introduce a concept whereby residents can access fresh, locally-grown food at their favorite establishments all year long. This vertical hydroponic farm, built by FarmBox Foods, is helping share the family’s passion and experience of growing nutrient-dense, delicious food while celebrating their roots.

As Thirsty Roots Farm broadens its offerings in ROOT 1, it will announce additional partnerships and make items available to customers through its online store. Follow along on their journey by liking ‘Thirsty Roots Farm’ on Facebook, following them on Instagram @ThirstyRootsFarm, or by visiting their website

About Thirsty Roots Farm

Thirsty Roots Farm is sustainability, community, and nutrition conveniently combined into a climate-controlled steel container. We are relentlessly striving to solve the problems of food availability and quality with year-round bountiful harvests as close as your nextdoor neighbor. Through innovation and a dedication to the small-scale farm systems sewn into the roots of our history; Thirsty Roots is empowering small businesses and communities to take the quality and availability of nutritious meals into their own hands.

What Types of Plants Grow in a Vertical Hydroponic Farm?

We dedicated more than two years to research and development, figuring out what will and will not grow in our containerized Vertical Hydroponic Farm.

The following list is not meant to be all-encompassing, but rather provide a snapshot of the types of crops that we and our customers have focused on, like yellow onions, collard greens, kale, a range of different micro greens, bok choy, red leaf beet and watercress. Of course, we’re always experimenting and adding to the list.

Vertical hydroponic farm


    • Jalapeno- Jefe, Jalafuego
    • Habanero- Helios, Paper Lantern
    • Serrano- Altiplano
    • Sweet Pepper- Lunch Box
    • Cayenne- Red Flame
    • Ghost peppers


    • Slicer- Mountain Fresh
    • Grape- Verona
    • Cherry- Sakura


    • Romaine
    • Muir
    • Rex
    • Magenta
    • Rouxai
    • Red Butterhead
    • Green Butterhead
    • Green Star
    • Ezflor
    • Grazion
    • Red Oak
    • Tropicana
    • Frisee


    • Cilantro
    • Parsley
    • Chives
    • Oregano
    • Prospera Basil
    • Genovese Basil
    • Purple Basil
    • Spicy Bush Basil
    • Dill
    • Lavender
    • Purslane
    • Mint


    • Rainbow Chard
    • Collard Greens
    • Red Vein Sorrel
    • Arugula
    • Dandelion
    • Golden Frills
    • Kale
    • Tatsoi
    • Red Kingdom
    • Spinach- Lizard, Space


    • Viola
    • Marigold
    • Nasturtium


    • Pickler- Excelsior


    • Bush Beans


    • Pumpkin- Jack O’Lantern
    • Sunflower- Giant, Skyscraper, Mixed Colors
    • Marigold- Crackerjack, French Double Dwarf

Edible Beats Announces Hydroponic BeatBox Farms At Vital Root

Edible Beats, the Denver-based restaurant group that includes Linger, Root Down, Vital Root, Ophelia’s and El Five, has announced the installation of a Hydroponic FarmBox by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods in the backyard of their plant-based Denver staple, Vital Root.

Edible Beats, the 100% Employee-Owned Denver-based restaurant group founded by Chef Justin Cucci, has announced the installation of a Hydroponic FarmBox by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods in the backyard of their plant-based Denver staple, Vital Root.

Coined BeatBox Farms, the hydroponic farm fits perfectly into the Edible Beats family, where a love of music and sustainability are at the forefront of every initiative. This specific initiative is a step towards providing all of their restaurants, including Root Down, Vital Root, Linger, El Five and Ophelia’s with their own homegrown fresh produce, adding to their over 50% locally sourced ingredients within Colorado. Embedded in the fabric of Edible Beats restaurants are their commitment to sustainability and waste reduction. From 100% wind-powered buildings, to compostable storage bags and gloves, BeatBox Farms is another step towards reducing packaging waste and lowering their carbon footprint, as it eliminates the shipping of the produce.

Within the 320-square-foot Vertical Hydroponic Farm (VHF), plants will go from seed to harvest and can yield the equivalent of up to 2.5 acres of farmland annually, with the capability to grow 7,800 plants at once. Expecting to harvest 120 lbs of veggies and greens weekly, they will be growing a variety of produce: Red Russian Kale, Runaway Arugula, Tat Soi, Hon Soi, Wasabina Mustard Greens, Scarlet Frills Purple Mustard Greens, Watercress, Basil, Cilantro and Dill. And by filtering and recycling water, BeatBox Farms uses 99% less water than traditional farms, and is committed to being pesticide-free, insecticide-free and fertilizer-free. All factors that allow Edible Beats to avoid groundwater contamination.

At the helm, Edible Beats FarmBox Cultivator and AgriCULTURist, Cori Hunt has had a rich history in the culinary and farming world. After working in Central Illinois to start the first Farm/Restaurant collaboration, Epiphany Farms, Cori says, “I have witnessed the better path first hand. Now I strive to help spread the word of this better path and align myself with likeminded people and groups. That led me to Edible Beats, who have been on the frontlines of this concept in Denver since the conception of Root Down.”

With this kind of local farming, the self contained vertical hydroponic grow system produces 10x more volume year round then the equivalent size of a traditional farm, with a daily consumption of roughly $20 in energy, and only 4 gallons of water per day. Cori shares, “Together we are attempting yet again to break as many molds as possible, pick up the pieces and build a better future.” As a leader in farm-to-table dining, Chef/Founder Justin Cucci has pioneered a culture of sustainability over the years with practices that go well beyond the kitchen. “I really wanted to have a sustainable culture for the employees,” explained Cucci.

This year, Edible beats joined a small handful of restaurants in the country, implementing a pioneering, self-funded 100% Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Rarely seen in the restaurant industry, his 350+ Edible Beats employees will all share in the long-term financial worth of the company, which Cucci calls “the quintessential win-win.”

What Happens When There’s Not Enough Water to Go Around?

Water conservation in agriculture is a big topic of conversation as seven southwestern states try to figure out how to curb their water

Decades-old water compacts didn’t account for prolonged extreme drought conditions or the level of population growth. We need to be better about capturing and storing rain and snowmelt, but it’s obvious that cutting usage where we can is going to be key to ensuring the survivability of communities throughout the southwest. This is a very real challenge, and it’s one we’re faced with right now, before we encounter a dead pool situation that would have a catastrophic domino effect.

We’ve spent recent years figuring out how to grow food with fewer natural resources. As much as 50 percent of the water we use outdoors is lost due to wind, evaporation, and runoff caused by inefficient irrigation methods and systems. A household with an automatic landscape irrigation system that isn’t properly maintained and operated can waste up to 25,000 gallons of water annually.

The Vertical Hydroponic Farms we build are designed to limit water loss to evaporation and to get the most out of every drop of water. We capture, filter and recycle it back through our system, and you can water your outdoor plants with any nutrient-rich water that’s left over. It’s not the entire solution, but it’s one way that technology can help ease the burden on our fragile water supply.

Farming Solutions for a Sustainable (and Less Scary) Future

Farming Solutions are needed – It seems every day you come across a news story that paints a very bleak future for traditional farming and the consumers who benefit from it.

We’ll briefly explore the many challenges facing the agricultural industry, but we’ll also posit some potential ways for farming operations large and small to adapt to changing times and conditions.

Shifting climate patterns are making it vastly more difficult to predict whether a crop will make it to harvest. Heat waves, hail storms, cold snaps and floods have become more pervasive and intense in recent years. Even crops that may not be directly affected by catastrophes, like the severe drought currently gripping the western portion of the U.S., are being indirectly impacted by residual factors, like smoke from wildfires.

We’re also facing other crippling issues without a foreseeable fix. Supply chains that support agriculture have been stretched to their limit since the beginning of the pandemic for a variety of reasons, including transportation availability, labor shortages, and associated delays affecting raw material sourcing. And the skyrocketing cost of fertilizer is further complicating matters for traditional farming operations and having an outsized impact on already-thin profit margins.

But what if there was a way to circumvent these issues using innovations in agtech? It sounds impossible, and while it comes with its own set of challenges, indoor growing, especially in urban areas, could be a big part of the answer going forward. 

Science and tech have come a long way in the last decade (hello, sensor technology!), allowing growers to do much more with much less in a smaller footprint. And hyperlocal farming means produce grows near the consumer, eliminating supply chain-related woes. Instead of spending the first half of its shelf life in transit, veggies get to the end user much quicker, resulting in less food waste. Local growing also reduces the need to burn fossil fuels to get food to its destination, and empowers communities to gain more control over their own food supply.

It’s hard to put a value on security and reliability, and we certainly won’t attempt to, but controlled-environment agriculture allows people to harvest large yields year-round without external variables getting in the way. There’s also no need for fertilizers or pesticides, which takes possible contamination of drinking water out of the equation. 

The practice is gaining momentum worldwide and already having an impact on sourcing for grocery chains, hotels, hospitals, restaurants and food banks. Likewise, farmers are embracing the technology because it provides a security blanket in uncertain times.

Growing the Trees Needed for Reforestation Efforts

ReforestationWhen considering reforestation, the blue spruce is the largest known tree of its species in the country. This tree is recognized not only for its size but also the critical ecosystem services that it provides, such as food and shelter for wildlife, water purification abilities, and its role in absorbing CO2 from our atmosphere and storing carbon in its wood, according to

Our Vertical Hydroponic Farm (VHF) farm is capable of housing up to 4,800 seeds in the seed table and 4,104 plants in the grow walls.  The farm’s climate can be adjusted to provide the ideal temperature, watering schedule, and nutrients for successful tree production. With a germination period of 10-14 days and a 95% success rate, followed by 60 days in the grow walls, FarmBox Foods makes reforestation possible anywhere, anytime, year-round. Annually grow up to 35,000 trees in 320 square feet while using only 3-5 gallons of water per day.

  • Efficiently manage the labor of your farm averaging 8-10 hours per week with the ability to remotely monitor your farms conditions.

  • One full time employee can effectively manage up to 4 farms, producing up to 140,000 saplings annually.

  • Greatly reduces the labor and need for acreage compared to traditional nurseries, while providing the ideal climate needs through any season in any location.

Traditional tree nurseries, when funded under federal or state cost-share programs, are required to have a minimum of 300 well-spaced seedlings per acre (1 acre = 43,560 square feet) in the first growing season.  Tree spacing most commonly used ranges from 435 to 726 trees per acre for reforestation purposes as well as wildlife enhancement programs.  In the FarmBox Foods Vertical Hydroponic Farm, you can accommodate over 8,900 seedlings and saplings in 320 square feet.

Impacts of climate change

Climate change is leading to unprecedented threats to our forests, including rising temperatures, prolonged drought, increased pests, and larger, more severe wildfires.  As of 2021, 128 million acres in the United States have the potential to be reforested.  To fulfill half of this need, we have to more than double our current production

National labor shortages are cited as the largest barrier to expanded seedling production.  Workforce limitations, including seasonal laborers, are a significant factor across America’s nursery infrastructure.  Retiring institutional knowledge is also creating additional barriers for successful operations to continue at today’s demands.

Disease and insect infestation kill more trees annually than forest fires.  When temps are high and tree sap is flowing, leaves and fruits are in full bloom. These are all attractants to tree-killing bugs.  The recent epidemic of pine beetles is a prime example of the devastation a little bug can wreak on tree populations.  Millions of trees were lost to the mountain pine beetle alone over the last 20 years. 

Fire is an inevitable part of what makes a forest a forest.  However, climate change and other human activity has been enabling even naturally caused fires to occur more frequently and intensely.  Wildfires also burn the carbon stored in trees and soil, releasing large amounts of smoke, methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which impacts the overall global temperature. 

Trees grown in a Vertical Hydroponic Farm can have a significant impact on revitalizing these forests and restoring the overall ecosystem.

Projected Water Scarcity Prompts Need for Farming Ingenuity

Projected Water Scarcity - FarmBox FoodsProjected Water Scarcity – The common refrain that fresh water is the next gold is ringing true as drastic changes in our climate are resulting in greater competition and a need for more efficient water uses, especially in the agricultural industry.

National Geographic points out that while the amount of fresh water on the planet has remained fairly constant over time — continually recycling through the atmosphere and back into our oceans, lakes and rivers — the global population has exploded in the last century. This means that competition for a clean supply of water for drinking, cooking, bathing and sustaining life intensifies every year. There is only so much water to go around.

Essentially, when taking saltwater into account, only about .007 percent of the earth’s water supply is usable for the planet’s 6.8 billion (and counting) people, National Geographic says.

The vast majority of freshwater  — about 70 percent by most estimates — is used for agriculture, and when you consider that feeding a planet of 9 billion people in 2050 will require an estimated 50 percent increase in agricultural production and a corresponding 15 percent increase in water withdrawals, the future becomes a lot clearer, according to World Bank.

Without proper governance, there is likely to be increased competition for water between sectors and an escalation of water crises of various kinds, triggering emergencies in a range of water-dependent sectors, according to a U.N. report.

Emerging technologies are quickly trying to find ways to get the most bang for each drop of water. Efficiencies have been identified, including vertical hydroponic farming, which drastically reduces the amount of water needed to grow crops. FarmBox Foods, a Colorado company that builds automated hydroponic farms inside repurposed shipping containers, has set its sights on creating a tangible shift in the approach to farming.

FarmBox Foods’ innovative, closed-watering system only uses 3-5 gallons of water per day and it does not contribute to groundwater contamination the way that traditional farming does. Furthermore, one farm is able to produce the same yield as 2 – 2.5 acres of farmland on an annual basis.

“Our container farms are built in such a way that it takes only a fraction of the amount of water to grow that same amount of produce,” said Rusty Walker, CEO of FarmBox Foods.

Climate change is projected to increase the number of water-stressed regions and exacerbate shortages in already water-stressed regions. It’s those regions that will realize the most benefit from vertical hydroponic farming and more efficient water usage in general.

An integrated view on water, the biosphere and environmental flows is necessary to devise sustainable agricultural and economic systems that will allow us to decelerate climate change, protect us from extremes and adapt to the unavoidable at the same time, the U.N. says.

The automated hydroponic farms use approximately 90 percent less water than traditional farms, and have a secondary benefit, as they can grow trees that contribute to the overall health of the environment by helping reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One container farm from FarmBox Foods can grow 35,000 tree saplings per year.

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Is Vertical Hydroponic Farming the Future of Agriculture?

vertical hydroponic farm - vertical hydroponicsVertical Hydroponics is needed – We face multiple agriculture-related obstacles in the fight to feed the world’s increasing population: climate change, lack of farmable space, water usage, supply chain concerns, and food contamination. 

Climate Change

We all know that climate change is causing increasing temperatures across the globe. Another unfortunate but less talked about issue caused by higher temperatures is an increase in pests. Our farms are built inside sturdy, insulated shipping containers, making them immune to the weather unpredictability and pest infestations that plague traditional farming.

Available Space

The UN reports that by 2050, the world’s population will reach nine billion, and food production will need to increase by seventy percent. To meet this increase in food production, farmers will need more land, but there is unfortunately not enough farmable land to meet this need. Hydroponic vertical farms can be placed in nearly any location and are stackable for added efficiency. Inner cities, drought-stricken areas, places with extreme temperatures, and hard to reach locations are not an issue for these types of farms.

Water Usage & Contamination

Traditional agriculture is the number one user of the Earth’s freshwater. A NASA report states that the demand for freshwater will increase by 55% by 2050. Water shortages are already a concern in the United States as well as in developing countries. These shortages will only get worse as many areas continue to suffer from widespread and long-lasting droughts. Vertical farming drastically reduces the amount of water needed to grow crops — FarmBox Foods’ innovative, closed watering system only uses 3-5 gallons of water per day and does not contribute to groundwater contamination.

Supply Chain Concerns

Our farms can be placed near distribution centers, schools, grocery stores, and shelters. By using a farm-to-table approach, produce from the farm can be served at your table the same day it is harvested. Not only does this allow the plants to keep all of their nutrients, but it cuts down on plastic packaging and transportation costs. Food Safety Studies show that foodborne illnesses sicken 1 in 10 people across the globe and kill 420,000 people every year. Some causes of foodborne illness include bacteria, viruses, chemicals, parasites, and cross-contamination.

Food Safety

is a top priority at FarmBox Foods. We have multiple systems in place to ensure that only clean water reaches the crops, and we have procedures in place to prevent other types of contamination.

Smart Farm Technology gives the farmer complete control over temperature, humidity, LED growing lights, and watering schedules. The ability to make adjustments as needed not only increases plant growth but gives consistency in plant production. Our farms are only 320 square feet, stackable, and compatible with nearly any environment. Low water usage and multiple filtration systems mean our farms only require 3-5 gallons of water per day, with no worries about contamination. We believe that this combination of innovation, creativity, and sustainability makes vertical hydroponic farming the future of agriculture.

Inner City Uses of Vertical Farming

Vertical Farming is a good solution. Not only do inner cities deal with a lack of usable space for farming, but changing weather conditions can make it nearly impossible to grow in the colder months. As the cost of fresh food continues to rise, vulnerable populations are forced to consume more fat and sugar-filled foods than ever, leading to an increase in diabetes, obesity, and other diet-related diseases. The good news is that there is a solution.

How Can We Eliminate Food Deserts?

Unfortunately, it is common to find food deserts in most inner cities. The US is growing more food than ever, yet we still have people going hungry. In 2019, 35 million people in the United States had limited or uncertain access to food. Putting vertical hydroponic and mushroom farms in inner cities will provide food security to areas that are underserved and struggle with access to nutritious, fresh food.

Is There Room For A Farm?

Our farms have a footprint of 320 square feet. They can be stacked, have the capacity to run on solar power, and can be deployed just about anywhere. Our small footprint does not mean small yields, however. Vertical grow tubes, LED grow lights, and multiple fans allow for faster and more efficient growth than with traditional farming.

Don’t Farms Use A Lot Of Water?

Another benefit of vertical hydroponic farming in urban areas is that very little water is required. By cutting out soil and incorporating a closed-loop watering system, the plants not only need less water to grow, but the water is recycled, cleaned, and reused.

It’s Too Cold To Farm!

Another benefit of vertical hydroponic farming in urban areas is that very little water is required. By cutting out soil and incorporating a closed-loop watering system, the plants not only need less water to grow, but the water is recycled, cleaned, and reused.

What’s Wrong With Just Buying Produce From The Grocery Store?

Fresher produce means healthier produce! By the time produce reaches grocery stores, it can be up to a week old – this means lost nutrients. Growing produce in the area where it will be consumed means you can enjoy food that is full of vitamins and other nutrients. With FarmBox Foods, we can place farms in the city, giving the community access to fresh, nutritious produce while reducing the environmental impact of transporting produce from rural areas.

Still Not Sure?

Placing farms in inner cities improves food security, provides jobs to residents, aids in educating the community on farming and nutrition, and boosts the local economy. At FarmBox Foods, our goal is to decentralize food systems and give power back to the consumers. We want to bring food security to people everywhere regardless of their location or socioeconomic background.