Giant Food Stores has inked a deal with BrightFarms, a pioneer in constructing greenhouses attached to supermarkets, to build the world’s largest urban greenhouse. The greenhouse will extend over an area of 100,000 square feet. It will deliver nearly one million pounds of fresh produce a year to about 30 Giant supermarkets in the Washington, D.C., metro area.
BrightFarms specializes in building as well as operating greenhouses, and expects the new greenhouse to open this fall. In addition to providing produce through the greenhouse, the company plans to open this massive facility to schools as an educational tool on urban agriculture and sustainability.
With a number of its greenhouses under development in areas such as Kansas City, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and St. Paul, BrightFarms is effectively promoting the urban greenhouse concept. Its deal with Giant Food Stores is the latest in a string of partnerships that the company has fostered with supermarket chains. Its other major supermarket partners include A&P, Cub and Pathmark. Marsh Supermarkets has recently signed with the company for a greenhouse in Indianapolis that will serve 97 stores in the region.
BrightFarms also has the expertise to design and build rooftop farms. It has built a 10,000-square-foot farm atop an affordable rental building in the Bronx. The farm makes use of the building’s waste heat and water harvested from the roof. It provides fresh vegetables to nearly 4,500 low-income residents who otherwise would not have affordable access to fresh food.
BrightFarms employs the same business model of leasing instead of owning greenhouses, which has already worked so well in the case of solar systems. BrightFarms takes total responsibility for its greenhouses and rooftop farms by financing, building and operating them. A long-term purchase agreement is signed by the supermarkets that partner with the company in these projects. The supermarkets get the advantage of fixed, reliable prices with minimal volume commitments.
BrightFarms was launched in 2011 with an initial funding of $4.3 million. It raised another $4.9 million in January this year to finance its growing operations.