WILMINGTON — The CEO of BrightFarms officially announced Wednesday the company will invest $10 million in building a greenhouse farm in Wilmington.
Construction is expected to be completed in late 2017, with the first harvest anticipated for first quarter 2018.
The 160,000 square-foot hydroponics greenhouse and the 25-plus employees will provide annually about 1 million pounds of salad greens, herbs and tomatoes for the greater Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton region year-round.
During the announcement event held at Wilmington College, BrightFarms CEO Paul Lightfoot said employees there will receive a living wage starting their first hour. The potential market for the “fresher, tastier and more sustainable produce” to be grown there is comprised of nearly 6 million people within a two-hour drive, he said.
“Consumers now recognize that long-distance produce can hurt the environment, and compromises freshness, quality and taste,” remarked Lightfoot.
All salad greens in Ohio supermarkets today basically are from California, Arizona or Mexico, he said.
“They look tired,” Lightfoot said.
All produce will be Non-GMO and pesticide-free, he stated.
After the announcement, Lightfoot told the News Journal the greenhouse farm workers will not need a lot of experience in agriculture. Rather, it’s key they really care about improving the environmental impact of the food supply chain and about the health of Americans, he said.
It will be a pleasant place to work, the CEO added.
Among the speakers at the event, Bar Dumaine (Dayton) chef Anne Kearney said she will be adding the Wilmington produce to her restaurant dishes.
For one thing, her clientele will know the regionally grown produce is “a properly sourced ingredient.”
And though a lot of people don’t like kale, tasting baby kale is another story, she said.
Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth expressed appreciation “an innovative business made the decision to come to town.”
The greenhouse farm will sit on the west side of Davids Drive and adjoin the Wilmington College Academic Farm property.
Two other public officials who spoke Wednesday were Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels and the Dayton Development Coalition President and CEO Jeff Hoagland.
Hors d’oeuvres were served containing tomatoes and baby greens from BrightFarms’ greenhouse farm in the Chicago region.
A press release on the event stated BrightFarms’ business model provides a steady supply and consistent pricing for local retailers.
It added that BrightFarms finances, builds and operates local greenhouse farms in partnership with supermarkets, cities, capital sources, and vendors. The Wilmington greenhouse farm will be its fourth. BrightFarms already operates greenhouses located for short transports of fresh produce to the Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Chicago metropolitan regions.
Fast Company recognizes BrightFarms as “One of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies” and one of the “Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Food” in the world, added the media release.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.