Big ideas grow in Wisconsin

Green leaf lettuce grows in one of numerous Flex Farms, which are vertical hydroponic farming systems, used to grow fresh produce indoors at Appleton East High School Monday, November 23, 2020, in Appleton, Wis. Through a donation from East Wisconsin Savings Bank, Appleton East is one of several schools receiving the Flex Farms from a company in Green Bay called Fork Farms.
Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes visited Green Bay’s Fork Farms with a simple message: Wisconsin can help businesses and entrepreneurs bring big ideas to life.

“With our state’s talent, workforce and top-ranked university system, Wisconsin businesses are creating solutions for today’s problems and opportunities for tomorrow,” Hughes said. “Innovation is one of the keys to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and building a more prosperous economy for everyone.”

In April, Fork Farms was certified as a Qualified New Business Venture by WEDC. That certification allows investors in the company to receive tax credits up to 25% of the value of the investment made.

Fork Farms has created a unique hydroponic growing system, called the Flex Farm, that allows consumers to grow up to 394 pounds of fresh food a year in just nine square feet of space. CEO and co-founder Alex Tyink, who at the time was an opera singer in New York City, was inspired to start the company after working at a Brooklyn rooftop garden and discovering the physical and mental health benefits to eating and growing one’s own food.

“WEDC’s QNBV designation will provide Fork Farms significant lift to our organization's mission,” Tyink said. “It will aid us in growing our business and focusing on ways that we can create transformative social benefit. Overall, we believe their support of the local startup community is critical to building a vibrant Wisconsin state economy."

The company, which is headquartered at Green Bay’s TitletownTech, continues to spread its message of fresh food and environmental sustainability by partnering with nonprofit groups such as community centers and schools to inspire a new generation of growers and creators.