Global conglomerate Cox Enterprises has acquired indoor-agriculture company BrightFarms, in which it has held a majority stake since 2020. The move bolsters BrightFarms’ leadership in the indoor-agriculture space and provides a strong, stable foundation for accelerating growth with partner retailers, according to Cox Enterprises, which to date has invested more than $1 billion in sustainable business and technologies. BrightFarms will play a key role in helping Cox reach its goal of building a multibillion-dollar cleantech business by 2030.
“BrightFarms is a perfect example of our Cox cleantech strategy – positively impacting the world through profitable, mission-driven businesses,” noted Steve Bradley, VP of cleantech for Atlanta-based Cox, whose relationship with BrightFarms dates back to 2018. “Over the years, our enthusiasm for BrightFarms and the opportunity to transform the industry has increased tremendously, which led us to want to play a larger role in what they’re doing.”
BrightFarms plans to use its market advantage and relationships with the nation’s largest retailers to bring local indoor leafy greens to more than two-thirds of the U.S. population by 2025. As part of this plan, the company intends to construct a national network of new high-tech farms that will accelerate the salad industry’s transition to indoor farming. The company will also boost investment in talent, research and innovation as it grows its product portfolio within the salad category and beyond.
“BrightFarms has built the most advanced network of local indoor farms in the nation,” said Steve Platt, CEO of Irvington, N.Y.-based BrightFarms. “Being part of the Cox team will allow us to scale more rapidly, transforming the salad industry for American consumers. As we embark on this new chapter, the BrightFarms team extends gratitude to our founder, Paul Lightfoot, for his bold vision, and to Catalyst Investors for their early and unwavering support.”
BrightFarms operates five farms in Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Illinois. Last month, the company acquired lēf Farms, an indoor grower based in Loudon, N. H., with the aim of expanding lēf’s facility into a 14-acre indoor growing hub for New England supermarkets. BrightFarms grows and delivers its greens to local supermarkets in as soon as 24 hours from harvest. The company’s sustainable hydroponic indoor farms yield 10 times more leafy greens per acre than outdoor fields and use 80% less water, 90% less land and 95% less shipping fuel than long-distance field-grown produce.
In other indoor-farming acquisition news, Naples, Fla.-based Green Life Farms has reached an agreement to buy Finn Farms, a hydroponic grower on Florida’s west coast. The transaction will give Green Life full ownership of Finn Farms, including all site and equipment assets. Green Life has a hydroponic greenhouse in Lake Worth, Fla., with its second of 13 planned locations currently under construction in Lake City, Fla. The acquisition will expand Green Life’s growing and sales footprint into southwest Florida.
Punta Gorda, Fla.-based Finn owns a 2.5-acre hydroponic greenhouse in southwest Florida. The facility produces a wide range of leafy greens and herbs, including spinach and basil, and is expected to be fully operational and generating revenue in the third quarter of 2021.
Green Life’s products, among them Butterhead Lettuce, Baby Arugula, Baby Kale, Baby Romaine and Farmer’s Blend, are available in more than 300 grocery stores and restaurants from Palm Beach to Miami and beyond, including some international locations. The company has also teamed with a major meal delivery service to serve customers across the southeast United States.
As Lynn Petrak recently noted in Progressive Grocer’s July 2021 issue, “With parallel and perhaps inevitably colliding trends of sustainability, plant-based eating, food safety and labor-saving agricultural practices, produce grown in controlled environments is likely to become much more common in grocery stores.”