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FoodNavigator | BrightFarms takes local produce model nationwide with hydroponics



By Mary Ellen Shoup
July 9, 2018

It wasn’t too long ago when locally-grown produce evoked images of backyard gardens or roadside produce stands many miles outside of city limits. Now, the local produce movement has morphed into an urban-centered industry thanks to the rise of hydroponic greenhouses.

One major player in the hydroponic space, BrightFarms, grows local produce nationwide by financing, building, and operating greenhouse farms in urban areas, partnering with nearby supermarket chains, enabling it to quickly and efficiently eliminate time, distance, and costs from the traditional food supply chain.

BrightFarms’ locally-grown lettuce and basil are currently in 650 stores including Walmart, Kroger, Ahold, and Albertsons locations. In two years, the brand has grown its distribution by 225% reaching a household penetration of 1.5 million, CEO Paul Lightfoot said.

“We’re a mission-driven company focused on changing the health of our society and our planet by becoming the first national brand of local produce. We work with the nation’s largest retailers to offer a premium, delicious and healthy product at an affordable price for the average consumer,” Lightfoot told FoodNavigator-USA.

And its footprint continues to expand dramatically with a greenhouse set to open in Ohio this summer giving a stronger reach into the Midwest market and another greenhouse opening in Texas in early 2019. Its route to rapid expansion hasn’t been a solo journey however. Bright Farms has brought in more than $100m in funding having recently secured more than $55m in Series D equity financing from investor Cox Enterprises in late June.

Future of urban hydroponics

Like many other players in the space, BrightFarms’ greenhouses consist of a hydroponic system utilizing a combination of natural and artificial light to grow its lettuce varieties and basil. Its distinct advantage is the short distance the company’s produce has to travel to get to stores and eventually in the hands of consumers, resulting in energy and cost savings.

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