[Full disclosure: I worked at BrightFarm Systems, the predecessor to BrightFarms, before Paul Lightfoot became CEO.]
Entrepreneurship is all about turning problems into business opportunities. Food and agriculture in the United States are rife with challenges, so logic would dictate that there are also numerous opportunities.
Paul Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer of BrightFarms, a company that designs, finances, builds and operates greenhouse farms at grocery retailers, is attempting to capitalize on what he sees as inefficiently produced fresh vegetables. And he recently secured a $4.3 million Series A equity financing round led by NGEN Partners to do so.
Like many new food tech entrepreneurs, Lightfoot has no background in food. Prior to BrightFarms, however, he was the CEO of an enterprise software company that improved the supply chains of major retailer and their suppliers. Now, he’s using his supply chain management expertise to optimize inefficiencies in the fresh produce supply chain.
“Not all ag products have the same margins,” said Lightfoot in an email interview. “And sometimes a product in one system can achieve better margins by creating it in a system that has a lower cost structure (thereby enabling better margins). We are focused on products that are produced inefficiently, thereby giving us an arbitrage opportunity. We can bring a better product to the market and create decent profit opportunities.”
Information technology plays a huge role in BrightFarms’ operations. Their systems collect data about inputs, such as water quality, temperature, and nutrient levels, and uses that information to automate decisions about operations like watering, cooling, and heating. This data can all be viewed remotely so that their Vice President of Agriculture can communicate with the “Local Head Farmer” who runs each farm.
Emil Capital Partners thinks it is. “I am very excited for Emil Capital Partners to invest in BrightFarms, as we believe in the tremendous commercial potential of the company,” commented Christian Haub, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Tengelmann Group and Chairman of Emil Capital Partners. ”BrightFarms’ solution taps into increasing consumer demand for locally grown foods. The BrightFarms model also offers food retailers an attractive source of produce at competitive terms.”
The following video is Lightfoot’s talk from the recent TedxManhattan: Changing The Way We Eat.