Q&A: BrightFarms and Cox Enterprises' Steve Bradley Talks Indoor Farming Growth
- by Chandler James
NEW YORK, NY - Perspective is everything, especially in a business like ours that is ever-changing. As BrightFarms continues to evolve its market strategy, the company was recently acquired by partner Cox Enterprises. I had the chance to gain the perspective of Steve Bradley, Vice President of Cox Cleantech, to hear what this purchase means for the future of indoor ag.
Chandler James: I know that to date, Cox has invested over $1 billion in sustainable businesses and technologies. Why is the indoor farming sector of increasing interest to you?
Steve Bradley: The indoor farming segment has been an area of focus for us at Cox Cleantech for several years. But in recent years and even months, the market has exploded with investment. Consumer adoption of indoor-grown produce is growing steadily, too, paving the way for more supermarkets to stock their shelves with BrightFarms’ fresh, locally grown lettuce.
BrightFarms’ mission is closely aligned with our values to build a healthier and more sustainable future. We’re excited to take on that challenge together.
CJ: In what ways do you view this acquisition as an opportunity to transform the industry?
SB: The sky’s the limit on how we can transform this burgeoning industry together. In the next five years, we will be building significantly larger farms near major population centers, helping BrightFarms reach two-thirds of the population by 2025. We predict that in five–10 years, 50 percent of leafy greens will be grown indoors, with BrightFarms leading the way.
Cox is providing the resources to solidify BrightFarms as the most dominant player in the industry. The company will continue to operate interdependently, but with our support, we’ll help it push the boundaries of what’s possible for indoor farming.
CJ: What are the company’s ultimate goals in completing this acquisition, and how will it help to build your cleantech business?
SB: We are ready to invest Cox’s resources into BrightFarms’ rapid growth across the country, further accelerating its leadership in the industry. We see controlled environment agriculture (CEA) as an opportunity to transform an industry, have a positive impact on the planet and people’s lives, and build a multibillion-dollar business. Indoor, locally grown produce offers retailers and consumers access to fresher, better tasting, more dependable produce. We can do all this while using less land, water, and shipping fuel and no pesticides or herbicides. We’re also able to protect the produce from environmental shocks like drought.
CJ: It sounds like an exciting business to be in! What are some of the things we will be seeing from Cox and BrightFarms in the coming months/years?
SB: In the near term, BrightFarms is expanding the newly acquired lēf Farms greenhouse, located in New Hampshire, by two acres, with plans to turn it into a 14-acre growing hub for the New England region. In the coming months and years, you’ll see a combination of new farms, building upon existing facilities, and acquiring new partners.
By 2025, we’ll increase our growing capacity to more than 100 acres up from today’s 22. As we enter new regions, we’ll accelerate growth with new and existing retail partners, expanding our distribution from 3,000 stores to more than 15,000.
This partnership combines the rapid growth of the CEA sector with the forward-looking vision of a true sustainability champion. Cheers to the success ahead!