- Sustainably grown lettuce company Little Leaf Farms received $18 million in financing from Bank of America, which will be followed by another $20 million, the company announced in a press release.
- Little Leaf Farms plans to use the capital to expand its current greenhouse in Devens, Massachusetts, from five acres to 10 acres in May 2020. The greenhouse will double production to 2 million boxes of greens a month, which will help the company expand outside its Massachusetts base and begin delivering to major supermarkets in New York and New Jersey.
- The company also plans to break ground on two 20-acre greenhouses next year, one in eastern Pennsylvania and the second in western North Carolina. Each greenhouse will grow 25 times more lettuce than an outdoor farm, per the press release.
The greenhouses are a notable investment for the company. Area Development reported that the company will invest up to $86 million in its Burnsville, North Carolina, complex and create about 100 jobs.
After the romaine lettuce recalls stressed the grocery industry late last year and amid a more recent scare, retailers may reconsider how they source their greens. As the company grows its greenhouse footprint, more grocers on the East Coast will be able to get shipments quickly, reducing the chances of spoilage or contamination.
Founded in 2015, Little Leaf Farms grows salad greens hydroponically using captured rainwater, advanced fertilization and water-conserving irrigation systems. The greens are free of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, and the company said human hands never touch the lettuce during the growing process. Little Leaf is focused on shipping its product locally within 24 hours of packaging.
The company already supplies more than 2,000 grocery stores in the Northeast, including Roche Bros.' Brothers Marketplace in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Other grocery partners include Stop & Shop, Hannaford, Shaw's, Big Y, Stew Leonard's and Whole Foods.
Little Leaf isn't the only one to recognize the value in sustainable, indoor farming. Other unique farming startups like Square Roots and BrightFarms have gained popularity. Vertical farm Square Roots is also an East Coast company with its original campus in Brooklyn, New York, and a recent expansion to Grand Rapids, Michigan. BrightFarms expanded this year on Little Leaf's turf, with new greenhouses in Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina.