Las Vegas Sun

September 24, 2018

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Unconventional farm aims to ‘redefine the meaning of fresh produce to Las Vegas’

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Steve Marcus

A worker looks over trays of microgreens and herbs in a grow room at Oasis Biotech, a new indoor vertical farming facility, Wednesday, July 18, 2018.

Oasis Biotech: Indoor Vertical Farming

A worker looks over trays of microgreens and herbs in a grow room during the grand opening of Oasis Biotech, an indoor vertical farming facility, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Launch slideshow »

A half-dozen workers covered head to toe in protective garb use tweezers to carefully place tiny seeds, one-by-one, to ensure each is planted in its precise space.

The workers are just a few of the almost 140 employees who carry out various farming jobs taking place not out in the blazing Las Vegas heat, but indoors, in a massive 215,000-square-foot climate and environmentally controlled building.

Oasis Biotech — located off Sunset Road and Annie Oakley Drive — is set to provide local vendors with some of the freshest, nutrient-rich produce available in the valley.

“We want to redefine the meaning of fresh produce to Las Vegas,” said Brock Leach, the Oasis Biotech chief operating officer and general manager. “We are now living in a world where the produce your family consumes will be grown in the same city in which they live and eaten almost immediately following harvest.”

The company is a firm believer in sustainability and helping provide food to the population that lacks it. Oasis Biotech uses 90 percent less water than a traditional farm, recycles 100 percent of unused nutrient water back into the fertigation system.

A controlled environmental agriculture farm utilizes vertical hydroponic systems that require no soil.

Phase 1 of the complex features 60,000 square feet, with 49,982 square feet of cultivation space, or equivalent to a 34-acre farm. All crops are non-GMO, pesticide, herbicide and fungicide free. Phase 1 utilizes all LED lighting, which uses 50 percent less energy compared with traditional indoor growing.

Oasis Biotech grows microgreens, baby greens, specialty herbs in Phase 1 of the project, with plans to add strawberries and rooted vegetables within the next 18 months.

Phase 2 will utilize an additional 30,000 square feet of the facility.

Through a partnership with distribution company Get Fresh, Oasis Biotech’s product will begin Tuesday shipping to local companies. Delivering local means lower miles driven, leading to a reduced carbon footprint.

“Not only would we be supporting local, it’s literally farm to table,” said Marcella Williams, chief operating officer of The Juice Standard. “When they’ve taken out the soil and the large crops, that lowers the chance of foodborne illness to almost non-existent.”

Williams hopes Oasis Biotech is the first of many like-minded businesses that sprout up around Las Vegas.

“They’re setting the standard for an operation like this to be all over the county,” she said. “Eventually, we could hopefully eradicate hunger.”

Helping feed those in need is a goal of Oasis Biotech, and the company will overproduce product and donate any inventory that isn’t shipped in a timely manner.

“I’m going to stay ahead of demand and overseed my sales projections. Because if we don’t, these restaurants can’t put it on their menus,” Leach said. “What we don’t sell, I’m going to take to charity. That way we can start today feeding people who need food.”

Oasis Biotech plans to invest nearly $30 million into the Southern Nevada economy within its first year, further diversifying the region’s economy. With its team member base growing from around 35 in May to 138 now, Leach said the interest expressed to work at the company has been overwhelming.

Each employee had to be trained on the go, because much of the work in the facility is uncharted territory.

“The employees are the real rock stars,” he said. “This is unskilled labor. We’re literally training on the job, a completely new skill-set. A new career path, in a new industry and to fill the farm the way we’ve filled the farm and get to our first delivery, it’s going to feel great opening day.”

Seeing the workforce and produce yields grow over the first few months in operation, Leach is confident he’s assembled the right team to buck industry trends going forward.

“We’re making farming cool again,” he said. “I have more people (wanting jobs) than I’ve got room for and I’m hiring a ton of people. They work their tails off because there’s a reason behind it … When you mix a purpose and technology together, it impacts every single person and they step up their game.”