Agriculture Technology Campus, a joint venture project between Mastronardi, Clear Water Farms, LiDestri Food and Drink and GEM Opportunity Zone Fund, plans to establish a state-of-the-art 1,000-acre agriculture technology campus in Hampton County, South Carolina. The combined $314 million investment is expected to create more than 1,500 new jobs over the next five years.
The Agriculture Technology Campus will include greenhouses for locally grown, pesticide-free tomatoes, leafy greens, blueberries and other produce; a 150,000-square-foot distribution center; and a co-packing facility. This announcement marks one of the largest agriculture investments in South Carolina history. The campus is expected to be operational in 2022 and fully by 2025.
The operations will be located at the Southern Carolina Industrial Campus within an Opportunity Zone, a program created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which encourages economic development and job creation in economically distressed communities.
The Coordinating Council for Economic Development (CCED) approved job development credits related to the Agriculture Technology Campus. The CCED also approved a $7 million Rural Infrastructure Fund (RIF) grant to Hampton County to assist with costs related to this project. In addition, Related to LiDestri Food and Drink, the CCED approved job development credits and a $1 million RIF grant to Hampton County.
“This future-focused partnership will continue the strong agricultural legacy in Hampton County. The Agriculture Technology Campus will use recycled rainwater to irrigate our greenhouses and provide all Carolina farmers access to our state-of-the-art co-packing facility. This helps pave the way for citizens to visit their local grocery stores, where they will be able to purchase pesticide-free, locally grown produce,” GEM Opportunity Zone Fund CEO Zeb Portanova said.
“Mastronardi is a family-owned business that pioneered the commercial greenhouse industry in North America in the 1940s, and today, we are the largest vegetable greenhouse operator on the continent with more than 5,000 acres of controlled environment productive growing capacity,” Sunset Grown Vice President and General Counsel David Einstandig explained.
LiDestri Food and Drink, a leading food, beverage and spirits co-packing company, will lead the co-packing facility. This facility will allow both campus growers and other South Carolina farmers to process produce, making items such as salsa, pesto and other products. LiDestri Food and Drink will handle the processing, packaging, shipping and logistical needs for the Agriculture Technology Campus.
“The opportunity to bring jobs, fresh produce and investment to rural South Carolina, while partnering with some of the best companies in locally grown produce, is very exciting. We are thrilled to be part of this partnership and look forward to the opportunities the co-packing facility will bring to the local community,” said LiDestri Food and Drink CEO Stefani LiDestri.
“Clear Water Farms values their strong relationship with Mastronardi and the Sunset brands. We are excited to bring locally grown, pesticide-free leafy greens like lettuce, arugula and basil to over 50 million Americans throughout the Southeast. Now, with this Agriculture Technology Campus, we are excited to bring the art of growing, co-packing and distribution together and make South Carolina a leader in Controlled Environment Agriculture,” Clear Water Farms CEO Jim Campbell added.
According to the South Carolina Department of Commerce, this controlled environment food production model helps meet the demand of grocery chains and consumers for fresh and reliable produce. The model of growing and sourcing locally grown foods helps ensure food supply chain security, which has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, and minimizes operating expenses through co-location.
“The Agriculture Technology Campus is a tremendous project that will have a huge impact on our region because of the sheer number of jobs and investment. We are equally excited about the partnership that made the Agriculture Technology Campus possible. These are fine companies that have global reach and are utilizing state-of-the-art technology in growing, processing and distributing. We believe this project will lead to many additional opportunities for our region in terms of research and development, as well as processing, manufacturing and distribution,” said SouthernCarolina Alliance Chairman Marty Sauls.