Fifth Season Proves Large-Scale Farming Isn't Strictly A Rural Enterprise

Oct 2, 2019

Fifth Season, founded as RoBotany in 2016, is expanding its vertical farming business and branching out from Pittsburgh into nearby Braddock.

The company launched through Carnegie Mellon University’s Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, a business and robotics incubator. Co-founder and CEO Austin Webb said the company uses robotics and artificial intelligence technology to grow leafy greens and herbs all year round.

“Vertical farming is a new age method of growing food indoors, where plant beds are stacked like a bookshelf,” Webb said. “We use LED lighting in order to replicate the sun, and we always have a perfect environment for plants to thrive in that allows us to really maximize freshness and ensure highest quality.”

Webb said Fifth Season, with offices on Pittsburgh’s South Side, is growing a variety of greens, including spring and salad mixes, spinach, arugula, kale, basil, cilantro, dill and more. He said hopefully they'll be able to grow more when they expand into a second, commercial farm in Braddock in early 2020. 

“When we get to full-scale operation, we’ll be producing over 500,000 pounds of produce per year,” he said, which he hopes to supply to supermarkets like Giant Eagle, Giant Eagle Market District and Whole Foods. 

The 60,000 square foot Braddock space powered in part by solar energy and requires signficantly less water than traditional growing operations. The company said in a statement it's raised $35 million to date and is planning a staged expansion to additional vertical farms in cities across the U.S.

90.5 WESA's Kiley Koscinski and Megan Harris contributed to this report.