BrightFarms has secured more than $100 million in debt and new equity capital to support robust expansion plans. The Series E round of funding was led by Cox Enterprises, which now owns a majority stake in the company, and includes a follow-on investment from growth equity firm Catalyst Investors. BrightFarms will use the funds to invest in its current farms and retail programs and expand its network of regional indoor farms across the U.S.
Catalyst-backed BrightFarms, a leading supplier of locally grown salads for supermarkets, opened a new expansion to its Rochelle, IL greenhouse. The increase in production will support BrightFarms continued growth in the market, including a 34 percent jump in year over year sales with Mariano’s.
Catalyst portfolio company ChowNow is launching new products to support local restaurants during COVID-19. A new Instagram alliance enables restaurants to add “Order Food” buttons to their Instagram profile and Stories, free of charge, providing another way to sustain their businesses in these difficult times.
“During this unprecedented pandemic, ChowNow has mobilized all its resources to help local restaurants survive and ultimately thrive, launching new products and services in record time,” said Chris Webb, CEO of Catalyst-backed ChowNow. “This Instagram feature is yet another valuable tool we’re offering our restaurant partners — at no cost to the restaurants — to help them drive more revenue and boost order volume without suffering the outrageous commissions and fees imposed by other delivery apps.”
It’s three days before Thanksgiving, and the news just hit nationwide. Another romaine lettuce recall threatens turmoil in the produce industry – and for the second year in a row, it’s all happening in the reaches of America’s most indulgent holiday.
Catalyst portfolio company Bright Farm’s founder, Paul Lightfoot, is literally watching from the sidelines. He’s at the headquarters of a Midwest food retailer for a meeting – by happenchance – but now, that conference room has turned war room as teams work to initiate protocols to pull affected products from the shelves.
Lightfoot doesn’t necessarily have to worry, however. As founder and president of BrightFarms, an indoor farming company that grows salads in high-tech, computer controlled greenhouses, his product isn’t impacted (the latest recall included romaine harvested in Salinas, California). In fact, within minutes, he can attest to a spike in orders, and BrightFarms salads will soon fill up empty store space.
Catalyst portfolio company BrightFarms is changing the future of food but would not be able to do so without the help of people like Denise DeRue – one of the head growers at BrightFarms. Denise began her career as an apprentice grower at the BrightFarms Virginia facility and after months of training was promoted to head grower of the Pennsylvania facility. BrightFarms’ greenhouses are operated via hydroponics and the company understands that smart growers like Denise enable them to expand rapidly. Each grower focuses on one greenhouse to make sure it has the healthiest, cleanest and freshest produce all the time.
Restaurants in 2019 continue to face several challenges, including everything from attracting and retaining customers to hiring and training staff. These challenges, both customer-facing (“Front of House”) and operations-focused (“Back of House”), keep restaurant profit margins low at 6% and contribute to the industry’s high failure rate. Increasingly, restaurants are more attune to these pain points and seek out restaurant-focused software and tech-enabled outsourcing solutions to increase sales volumes and reduce costs.
Unlike other platforms, Catalyst portfolio company ChowNow tries to help smaller restaurants build their own web presence instead of turning to the aggregators. Restaurants pay ChowNow between $100 and $150 per month to use its software to create branded apps and allow ordering through their websites. Restaurants get a full-service dashboard that lets them control all delivery functions, including hours, zones and fees. Most important, through ChowNow, a restaurant owns its own customer information.
ChowNow, whose food-ordering platform makes it easier for local restaurants to accept online orders, has raised $21 million in a series C round of funding from private equity firms 3L Capital and Catalyst Investors.
Catalyst-backed BrightFarms, the leading supplier of locally grown salads for supermarkets, was recently awarded the Innovation Award (Produce) at Walmart’s 2019 Supplier Growth Forum. The award follows a successful launch of BrightFarms salads in Walmart stores in Ohio.
BrightFarms produce reaches Walmart stores within 24 hours of harvest, providing consumers with a fresher product that’s grown indoors and without the use of pesticides. BrightFarms salads have quickly become a household favorite among consumers searching for more locally grown options.