Paul Lightfoot, the CEO of BrightFarms, pitched his company during an American Idol-like panel called Great Green Ideas at Fortune Brainstorm Green. He didn’t win the audience vote, but I think BrightFarms is a great idea, so I decided to write about the company for Guardian Sustainable Business.
BrightFarms builds hydroponic greenhouses in cities to grow lettuces, tomatoes and herbs for supermarkets. Retail chains are intrigued: They can satisfy their consumer’ appetite for local food, and be assured of a predictable supply of healthy, fresh vegetables. While hydroponic farming isn’t new, BrightFarms has developed an innovative business model that should enable the company to finance its expansion.
The result is that BrightFarms is growing (pun intended) at a nice clip. This month, it announced plans to build a greenhouse in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
Here’s how my story begins:
Most of the organic baby greens sold in Washington DC supermarkets are not “green” at all. They’re grown in the Salinas Valley in California, which has been called the most hydrologically altered landmass on the planet. Then they are shipped in refrigerated trucks roughly 2,800 miles across America.
Paul Lightfoot thinks there’s a better way to get fresh lettuce, tomatoes and herbs into the hands of supermarket shoppers. Lightfoot is chief executive of a startup called BrightFarms, which builds and operates urban, hydroponic greenhouse farms. The company operates a greenhouse farm in Philadelphia, it’s building another on a massive rooftop in Brooklyn, and it is developing farms in St Louis, Kansas City, St Paul and Oklahoma City.
You can read the rest here.
The aptly-named Paul Lightfoot, by the way, is a marathon runner, which naturally predisposed me to like him and BrightFarms. He joins a distinguished group of “green” marathon runners including Mark Tercek of The Nature Conservancy, Paul Polman of Unilever, “Speedy” Seth Goldman of Honest Tea, Tony Hansen of Fortune Brainstorm Green, Jason Graham-Nye of gDiapers, DOE solar guru Christina Nichols, ethical sourcing expert Melissa Schweisguth, Natalie Bailey of the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group and Sheryl O’Loughlin of the Nest Collective. If I’ve forgotten anyone, by all means let me know by email or in the comments.