BrightFarms, an indoor agriculture company growing leafy greens, announced today the official opening of its fifth greenhouse. The six-acre facility is located in Hendersonville, North Carolina and will produce about 2 million pounds of lettuce per year, according to a press release sent to The Spoon.
BrightFarms already operates farms in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Virginia. The locations of its farms means the company can chop the harvest-to-shelf time for greens down to just 24 hours in some cases, as opposed to the days (or weeks) it takes to get greens shipped in from California or Arizona.
All locations use a hydroponic system and natural sunlight supplemented by a proprietary technology called BrightOS that calculates the ideal growing temperature as well as humidity and nutrient levels. In some ways, BrightOS could be seen as the central nervous system of the company’s farming network, collecting data from each individual farm in order to inform overall best practices. Not that the farms run entirely on their own. Each farm employs a head grower along with several other staff. The company said today that the North Carolina facility will create 55 new jobs.
Notably, BrightFarms counts spinach among its leafy green crops. Because of its susceptibility to disease, spinach is notoriously difficult to grow indoors. The only other company currently attempting it on a large scale is Element Farms.
Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of tech-enabled greenhouses these days — thought not necessarily in the Southeastern U.S. AppHarvest, which went public earlier this year, grows tomatoes via controlled ag in Kentucky, and will next tackle leafy greens on a soon-to-come facility. Many farms are still concentrated in the Northeast and West, though that is changing.
BrightFarms said in today’s press release that it will double in size and production in 2021, and be in more than 3,500 stores across the U.S. Besides the new North Carolina farm, BrightFarms plans to open another facility in New England later this year.