Indoor-farming company BrightFarms has launched BrightLabs, an innovation and research hub at its Ohio growing facility. Matt Lingard, PhD, a former Bayer plant scientist with more than 15 years of experience working at the intersection of biotechnology and greenhouse science, will head the BrightLabs team as VP of agriculture and science.
“The indoor-farming industry is at an inflection point as local, indoor-farmed produce becomes a priority for retailers and consumers,” noted Steve Platt, CEO of Irvington, N.Y.-based BrightFarms. “Among competitors, we’ve developed the most profitable model for the production of indoor leafy greens, but it’s essential that we maintain our market advantage to stay ahead of the curve. We’ve built up a team of the best minds in indoor agriculture to officially launch BrightLabs, where we’ll develop the next phase of game-changing products and technology solutions for our operations.”
BrightLabs will focus on developing proprietary and patented ecosystems for plants to increase their flavor, yields and texture. The team will bring together technology, microbiology and plant science experts to deliver breakthrough innovations in the salad category and beyond.
“No other indoor-farming company is studying a plant’s microbiome, the naturally occurring bacteria that help determine its health, to the same degree that we are,” asserted Lingard. “Instead of pouring dollars into artificial lighting research, we’re developing cutting-edge biotechnology solutions to out-maneuver our competition with the most productive indoor farms in the industry. There’s no question that high-tech greenhouses that leverage natural sunshine have emerged as the most promising new generation of agriculture technologies, and optimizing the microbiome will allow us to unlock even more of a plant’s natural potential in our indoor farms.”
The multimillion-dollar investment in R&D is part of BrightFarms’ $100 million Series E fundraising round led by Atlanta-based global conglomerate Cox Enterprises, and represents a tenfold increase in the company’s research capabilities. Ten percent of the company is now dedicated to developing complex, patented growing solutions to be applied to its growing network of greenhouses.
Already carrying out proprietary research on growing spinach in a hydroponic system, BrightLabs intends to double its production of the crop, the industry’s best-selling tender-leaf variety. The company also aims to build on the success of its best-selling Sunny Crunch variety with a new industry-first antioxidant-rich lettuce, NutriGreens, debuting this month. BrightOS, the company’s proprietary data system, will help the BrightLabs team ramp up their research via machine learning and advanced data analysis.
BrightFarms’ five greenhouses in Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, Pennsylvania and North Carolina cover 1.2 million square feet and produce 9 million pounds of fresh lettuce annually. By the end of this year, the company’s leafy greens will be available at more than 3,500 stores, the highest number of any indoor-farming company in the industry.