Urban Greenhouse Company raises $14m in PE funding

BrightFarms executive predicts 700% growth for greenhouses that minimise transport costs by building near retail locations.

An urban greenhouse company, BrightFarms, has raised $13.65 million in private equity funding to expand its operations and build new sustainable greenhouse farms to supply supermarkets with fresh, local produce.

The raise was led by existing BrightFarms investors WP Global Partners, NGEN Partners and Emil Capital Partners, according to a company press release. The funding brings BrightFarms’ total capital raised up to $40 million.

The infusion of capital will allow BrightFarms to increase production 700 percent in 2016, according to BrightFarms chief executive Paul Lightfoot.

BrightFarms constructs and operates greenhouse growing facilities at or near retailer locations, providing a year-round supply of fresh produce for customers through long-term produce-purchase agreements (PPAs).

Lightfoot said the new capital will fund the construction of two new greenhouses in Chicago and Washington DC in 2016, as part of retail partnerships with Mariano’s and Giant Foods supermarkets in the respective markets. The company plans to pursue a more aggressive growth strategy in the US Midwest and Northeast beginning in 2017, he added.

The company currently has $100 million in contracted commitments from supermarket clients, according to the release. The company claims to use 80 percent less water, 90 percent less land and 95 percent less shipping fuel than conventional produce operations.

“BrightFarms offers an innovative commercial solution to meeting increasing consumer demand for fresh, locally-grown produce,” said Gregory Oberholtzer, senior managing director at WP Global Partners in a statement. “Supermarkets will need to partner with growers who can offer consistent, high-quality produce that is not only local but available year-round. BrightFarms’ technology, operations, and fresh products meet the needs of both the retailer and consumer. We are pleased to be an investment partner in the company’s growth.”

In addition to Giant Foods and Mariano’s, Brightfarms currently partners with A&P supermarkets, according to the company website.

“[BrightFarms] has already demonstrated to supermarket partners that growing local at scale can help lower the three major costs associated with food production: transportation, agriculture and water,” said Peter Grubstein, managing director of NGEN Partners, in a statement.