In a recent TEDx talk, BrightFarms CEO Paul Lightfoot asked the audience to visualize the best-tasting tomato they had eaten in the last year. Then he asked everyone who had purchased it in a supermarket to raise their hands. When no one did, Lightfoot said it was a little unusual to literally see no one raise their hands, but this question usually got a similar reaction — even when he asked supermarket executives!
We live in a world where produce is normally shipped thousands of miles. Mexican tomatoes are sold in New York. Most of the lettuce in supermarkets comes from near Salinas, California, in the summer or Yuma, Arizona, in the winter. Taste is forgotten, the important thing is shipping.
BrightFarms had a different idea. It decided to grow vegetables right in the communities where they were to be purchased. That both eliminated transportation costs and allowed BrightFarms to focus on growing the best-tasting, most nutritional food possible. BrightFarms locates farms very close to their supermarket partners, but also supplies fresh produce to multiple individual stores. Its long-term, fixed-price contracts with supermarkets are unique to the industry, reducing risk, attracting project finance, and enabling scale.
Since 2011, BrightFarms has partnered with 7 major supermarkets chains and has 7 commercial-scale greenhouses in development.
Its first 56,000 square foot greenhouse opened in Yardley, PA, during January 2013. BrightFarm’s Baby Kale, Baby Arugula, Spring Mix, and Asian Greens are sold through A&P and McCaffrey’s stores.
The company has other greenhouses in development in Washington DC, St Louis, NYC, St Paul, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, and Indianapolis.
On January 28, BrightFarms announced that it had secured $4.9 million in Series B financing from a group of investors led by NGEN Partners (a venture investor that focuses on companies that improve the environment and human wellness), Emil Capital Partners (which manages all activities of the Tengelmann Group in the Americas), and BrightFarms founder Ted Caplow.
This new financing will enable the company to build commercial-scale greenhouses to meet the increasing demand for locally-grown, great-tasting produce.
From BrightFarm’s latest press release:
BrightFarms CEO Paul Lightfoot stated, “We are thrilled to have the backing of world-class institutional investors such as NGEN Partners and Emil Capital Partners. Their successful investment track record in the health and sustainability sectors validates BrightFarms’ innovative business model and success to date.”
“We are particularly excited to be supporting BrightFarms, as it sits at the leading edge of the demand for local food production, utilizing sustainable practices and a disruptive distribution model. BrightFarms is well-positioned to rapidly scale its model and now has the customer support and team to do so”, said NGEN Managing Director Peter Grubstein.
“Emil is excited to make this follow-on investment in BrightFarms,” stated Christian Haub, Chairman of Emil Capital Partners. “The success of BrightFarms in signing long-term purchase agreements with major supermarket clients, and providing superior produce to consumers, has established BrightFarms as the leading player in the nascent urban agriculture sector.”
“I am pleased at this opportunity to increase my investment in BrightFarms,” stated Ted Caplow, founder and Chairman of BrightFarms. “It is more important than ever to improve the environmental footprint of the produce supply chain, and BrightFarms is leading that effort on a commercial scale, creating the first national brand for local produce while saving land and water.”