On Sept. 17, technology-driven vertical farming company Kalera announced that it has hired veteran foodservice and grocery industry executive Daniel Malechuk as CEO. Kalera’s co-founder and current CEO, Cristian Toma, will move to the role of chief technical officer. The company also announced that J. Michael Carr has joined as vice president of sales.
“I’m honored and excited for the opportunity to lead Kalera in this new phase of expansion and continued innovation as we bring nutritious, healthy, leafy green vegetables to more people locally and around the globe,” said Daniel Malechuk, new CEO of Kalera. “Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work across many different disciplines within the food industry — from both the buyer side and supplier side — while consistently growing the size and scale of the business, all of which will be critical to my position at Kalera.”
“Daniel is a world-class executive with extensive experience managing and growing some of the world’s best food and grocery companies,” said Cristian Toma, Chief Technical Officer of Kalera. “As we enter the growth stage of this business and the world recognizes the value of our fresh, clean, local produce, we need a different sort of management — where knowledge of the factors that drive the large produce markets are as vital as the technology that got us started. This is an exciting time in the company’s growth and the collective experience of Daniel and Michael, in both foodservice and grocery, will help propel us forward.”
A food industry veteran, Malechuk began his career as a District Manager at ALDI, where he helped the company expand into new markets and was subsequently promoted to Director of Corporate Purchasing at ALDI’s US headquarters. There he headed several of the company’s perishable programs and focused on global sourcing, purchasing, marketing, and product development. In addition, he developed and spearheaded the company's corporate seafood sustainability policy and also developed a product that won the national Private Label Manufacturers Association's Salute to Excellence award.
After his tenure at ALDI, Malechuk served as an executive in several of the country's leading food and produce companies in both sales and supply chain, as well as having full P&L leadership roles. While at Shamrock Foods, Malechuk led the retail division and drove explosive revenue and profitability growth and expansion across the Southwest. Daniel also served as Vice President at Keysource Foods, where he led company strategy and sales operations and negotiated contracts with top executives for the world's largest food companies, including ConAgra, Carnival Corporation, PF Chang’s, ALDI, and Sysco.
J. Michael Carr, the new Vice President of Sales, previously held the position of Director of National Sales Planning and Retail Operations at Village Farms International, North America’s largest publicly traded natural and organic hydroponic greenhouse grower. Carr joins Kalera to expand the company’s reach and relationships with suppliers, restaurants, and grocery stores.
Last year, Kalera opened the first hydroponic HyCube growing center on the premises of the Orlando World Center Marriott. This HyCube followed similar installations that were already operational at the company’s headquarters. Kalera is now scaling operations to include a new growing facility in Orlando, which will be the single largest indoor vertical farm in the Southeastern United States. The new facility will have the capacity to produce upwards of 5 million heads of lettuce per year. The company plans for accelerated growth and will build additional facilities as production capacity is further expanded in the US and internationally.
Central to Kalera’s business is good science. The company is planting non-GMO seed, and over the past several years has perfected plant and data science-driven methods to naturally optimize the factors that make plants thrive. Kalera manages these natural factors in a way that makes plants reach their maximum potential, resulting in the highest quality produce, grown locally with consistent high-yields year-round.
By using a closed-loop irrigation system, Kalera’s plants grow while consuming 95% less water compared to field farming. While a head of lettuce grown in a field may use as much as 60 gallons of water, Kalera’s systems result in a healthier plant with less than five gallons.
The company utilizes cleanroom technology and processes to eliminate the use of chemicals and remove exposure to pathogens. With indoor facilities situated right where the demand is, Kalera is able to supply an abundance of produce locally, eliminating the need to travel long distances when shipping perishable products and ensuring the highest quality and freshness.