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High tech farm to bring 1,500 new jobs to South Carolina

Mastronardi Produce part of group to invest $314 million in 1,000-acre Agriculture Technology Campus, employ over 1,500
Credit: Mastronardi Produce

HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. — Hampton County will soon be home to a high tech farming facility as three companies come together to invest $314 million in a project that plans to grow, process, package and ship fruits and vegetables using an approach called 'Controlled Environment Agriculture.'

The joint venture includes:

The companies will create a 1,000-acre agribusiness cluster in Hampton County that will employ 1,547 people in growing, packing and shipping tomatoes, leafy greens, blueberries and other fresh produce. These will be produces on an Agriculture Technology Campus made up of multiple greenhouses and hoop-houses, a 150,000-square-foot distribution center, and a large co-packer centrally located within the cluster. The project will be situated near I-95.

Controlled Environment Agriculture is a technology-based approach to indoor farming that allows growers to minimize space and conserve water while controlling for factors like weather.

According to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA), over the past three years, the department has been exploring the potential for Controlled Environment Agriculture to boost the state’s agricultural economy. This project will provide new jobs and offer opportunities for existing South Carolina farmers as agribusiness operations build a local supply chain, according to the release. Growing and sourcing locally grown foods helps ensure food supply chain security, a need amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, and minimizes operating expenses through co-location.

SC Governor Henry McMaster tweeted about the campus, writing, "This is a monumental announcement that will have an impact that reverberates across our state for generations; it's a big win for Hampton County and the future of agriculture in South Carolina. Thank you to everyone who worked together to make it possible." 

“The Agriculture Technology Campus investment in South Carolina agriculture is transformative, creating jobs in the Hampton County region and future opportunities for South Carolina farmers,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers. “A Controlled Environment Agriculture project of this scale will conserve land and water and offer South Carolinians more chances to buy local produce.”

“This is a historic day for a region steeped in agricultural history,” said GEM Opportunity Zone Fund CEO Zeb Portanova. “I am thrilled to be part of this innovative group looking to grow high quality agriculture across the region. We will deploy sustainable practices such as using recycled rainwater to irrigate our greenhouses while also providing all Carolina farmers access to our state-of-the-art co-packing facility. This will help pave the way for citizens to visit their local grocery stores, where they will be able to purchase pesticide-free, locally grown produce.”

The Agriculture Technology Campus cluster is projected to increase total economic output in Hampton County by $551.7 million a year, or $7.4 billion over 15 years, according to an economic impact study commissioned by the SCDA. The campus is expected to be operational in 2022.