Farm Flavor in partnership with The Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries sites more than 43,000 farms spread across 8.9 million acres throughout Alabama, averaging about 206 acres in size. In fact, Agriculture and forestry are two of the top industries in the state. One out of every 4.6 jobs is related to Alabama agriculture, and the industry contributes approximately $70.4 billion to Alabama’s annual economy.

That being said, entrepreneur, public speaker and business educator, Zale Tabakman developed a concept for an indoor farm that grows vegetables, herbs, and greens using modular construction, called Local Grown Salads. One LGS farm would be 15K SF and fabricated off-site almost entirely — even one of the costliest elements of construction, the HVAC system. “It’s like installing a giant washing machine into a building,” said, Tabakman.

His modern idea is an innovative take on one of our states top industries. Each plant produced will be certified organic, non-GMO, and kosher. He estimated, without delays, a LGS unit installation can be done in 2 weeks. First harvests possible at 30 days and following each 30 days. Each farm has an estimated cost of $2.2 million, requiring 15 – 20 workers and would start generating income after 150 days.

Many companies have already, particularly near some of the most in demand urban markets, introduced urban farming. But whereas many of those farms are in sizable, purpose built new industrial buildings, LGS has a smaller capital requirement and can utilize space in older warehouses otherwise considered obsolete for industrial use.

Tabakman believes because each LGS unit requires only a 15k SF pad with 14’ clearance heights, that it is actually better suited to older warehouses than newer buildings with higher ceilings. He said “the model is, in a way, ideally suited as an opportunity zone investment. To that end Tabakman is working to launch a qualified opportunity fund called I95 OZF.

Ballard Spahr Tax Credits Team Leader Molly Bryson said, “In community development, there is a lot of concern about food deserts, so something like [an urban farm] could meet community improvement needs, so [if a city had] any parameters about meeting goals of the program, that would potentially be within the spirit of the law.”

According to CBRE Philadelphia Senior Research Analyst Lisa DeNight, those areas often contain functionally obsolete industrial buildings for which an urban farm could easily meet the significant improvement threshold required under the outlined opportunity zone regulations. Many cities are eager to welcome businesses like LGS because of the otherwise open-ended regulations.

Tabakman stated the kind of model he has in mind is for multiple buildings and that he is looking for someone who has several warehouses and would like to bring them in as tenants with another individual who has the capital needed for this kind of investment. Taking that leap has remained the biggest obstacle to any opportunity zone investment up to this point.

With many investors waiting on final clarification to roll-out their capital, vision like this is commendable and offers plenty of new opportunity for the imagination, even in areas such as our own.