Is controlled environment agriculture addressing the issues facing the industry?

When Paul Lightfoot founded BrightFarms in January 2011 he had no experience in commercial food production. Ten years later, he is president of one of the fastest growing controlled environment agriculture companies in the United States. Starting with one 54,000-square-foot greenhouse facility in Pennsylvania in 2013, BrightFarms has expanded with greenhouse operations in four states with a total production area of 700,000 square feet.

“I had a background in retail supply chain improvement,” Lightfoot said. “I was running a supply-side software company for about nine years and was thinking about whether I could create an opportunity that would combine my career with my personal interest in healthy sustainable food. I studied different opportunities and came across the leafy greens supply chain as one that was ripe for destruction.

“At the time, all salads in North America basically came from the West Coast, either Salinas, Calif., in the summer or Yuma, Ariz., in the winter. I identified a very centralized, very industrialized supply chain that wasn’t benefitting consumers.”

“Most leafy greens are five to seven days old when they arrive at retailers’ distribution centers, and that shows in the quality, nutrition and taste,” he said. “I also thought field food production had some Achilles heals’ in terms of food safety and sustainability, which I thought would become more important, providing BrightFarms with a terrific market opportunity.

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