BrightFarms plans three new greenhouses
- Packaged salad brand BrightFarms plans to open three new sustainable greenhouse farms in Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina, the company announced in a press release. Construction is slated to begin at the end of the year with production beginning in spring 2020.
- Brightfarms currently operates greenhouses in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Each new greenhouse will span 280,000 square feet on 20 acres of land and will hire around 55 employees, creating new "green-collar" job opportunities, BrightFarms stated.
- Once operational, the company estimates that each greenhouse will produce more than 2 million pounds of salad greens and herbs each year using a fraction of the water, land and shipping fuel that West Coast farms use.
BrightFarms' recent series of announcements shows that it's getting serious about retail expansion. Last month the company announced new retail partnerships in its four existing markets, adding Jungle Jim's, Food Lion Stores, Dierbergs Markets and Tops Friendly Markets to its client roster. It also launched a new partnership with food waste startup Misfits Market, which will offer BrightFarms' excess yields in its "ugly produce" delivery box service.
BrightFarms' broader retail presence and new greenhouse expansion plans will give the company greater market share across the mid-Atlantic and into the south. This will offer shoppers a locally grown option instead of produce imported from California's heartland, which may be fresh, but still endures thousands of transport miles to reach customers on the Eastern Seaboard.
Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina each maintain extensive directories of farmers markets where shoppers can find locally grown, in-season produce and have a chance to meet the farmer behind the food. Despite the strong farmers market scenes, BrightFarms may have an advantage in offering its packaged salad greens in retail locations where shoppers are already doing the bulk of their grocery shopping. Carving out extra time to make a trip to the farmers market in busy metropolitan areas like New York City, Boston and Raleigh-Durham can be an obstacle for many shoppers.
New York will offer the stiffest competition for BrightFarms as a leading agricultural state on the East Coast. The state produced $5.05 billion in agricultural products in 2016, according to the New York Farm Bureau. Dairy products top New York's list of agricultural products, followed by livestock-related enterprises, so BrightFarms might have the upper hand on locally produced greens. Still, there are plenty of places for New Yorkers to scoop up salad greens, such as the Union Square Greenmarket.
Another advantage that BrightFarms may have over farmers markets — which offer far more than locally grown greens and herbs — is that its indoor greenhouses allow it to produce salad fixings year-round. Local farmers may not be able to match that unless they’ve also constructed a greenhouse or similar indoor-growing setup.
The company's domino-like expansion can be credited to the $55 million Series D funding round that closed last June, giving BrightFarms plenty of cash to complete the lofty task of launching three new greenhouses with a robust employee count.
In its announcement, BrightFarms said it will explore acquisitions and partnerships to meet fast-growing retailer demands for locally grown produce. While details are scant on what BrightFarms is looking for in those acquisitions, companies that use similar growing practices are likely prime targets.