A Utah family of Korean immigrants is hoping to tap into the vertical farming market. Since moving to Utah in 1987 to pursue a master's in bioengineering at the University of Utah, Chihan Kim and his family have headed up a string of local business ventures, from a gas station to glove manufacturing and a coffee shop.
In February, Kim said he found a "good deal" on a warehouse near 150 East and 4500 South and purchased it. "Plan A was renting the building to somebody," he said, but "I looked into several different businesses" in case "I cannot find a tenant."
One of the options he looked at was indoor farming. Kim said, "When I started (researching) indoor farming business, I liked it, you know, so I changed (my) mind to do a business in the building instead (of leasing)."
According to Jack Wilbur, spokesman for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, there are currently three commercial vertical garden operations in Utah that supply to restaurants and farmers markets in the state.
Wasatch Community Gardens also runs a vertical farm operation, although not for commercial purposes. The community garden's Green Team initiative provides a farm-based job training program for women who are experiencing homelessness.
At the time Kim submitted his application, Murray had no land use code for a vertical farming operation.
"Mr. Kim came in and said, 'I want to start indoor farming,'" said Murray City Community Development manager Jared Hall. He said city representatives told Kim, "We don't actually have something specifically for that, we don't have anything specifically prohibiting it either."
Hall said the city was supportive of the initiative, noting "the planning commission was very positive about it from the get-go."