Bryan Ernst was always curious about hydroponics and vertical farming. Now, his farm, Ernessi Farms in Ripon, is poised to become the state’s largest indoor growing facility.
Ernst’s passion for vertical framing was amplified during his military service and witnessing urban poverty. “We should be able to use existing urban spaces to produce food.” That’s where the purpose behind the start-up began.
Ernst says combining hydroponics with vertical farming makes the most of available space. Today he’s focused on producing micro greens, basil, sunflower shoots, and other “quick turn” plants for consumption. Since the plants grow in a controlled environment, Ernst is able to change the different inputs they receive. Ernst says, “When they (customers) are buying basil, they don’t want to buy stem, they want to buy basil. By using the wavelength (specific light ratio), we can cut down the amount of stem customers get and they can get bigger amounts of leaf’s.”
Growing mushrooms, however, takes a little something special though. Ernessi Farms grows mushrooms in bags and to mimic nature, Ernst says, “We physically take our bags that we are growing the mushrooms into and we physically slap them to make them think the tree is falling down in the woods.”
Ernst says, “From the time we harvest the plant, put it in the package, and in the fridge is less than an hour. The time it goes from fridge to the customer is always less than 24, but most of the time it’s about 12 hours.” Ernessi Farms is a growing business and to fill the demand, they will be upsizing from a 6,000 square feet with a 9 foot ceiling to a 21,000 square feet with a 16 feet ceiling growing over 430,000 plants. This building will be the largest indoor facility for growing plants in Wisconsin!