Where in Raleigh or Durham Should BrightFarms Build a Hydroponic Urban Greenhouse? - 1

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Where in Raleigh or Durham Should BrightFarms Build a Hydroponic Urban Greenhouse? - 1
BrightFarms, a New York-based builder of hydroponic urban greenhouses, is checking out Durham and Raleigh for 50,000 to 200,000 square feet of space for a new greenhouse -- "ideally, on a rooftop," said the company.

And they're willing to pay $1,000 to the person who helps them find the right location.

BrightFarms has announced the Envision Us Here contest. Visit the contest page for their criteria, which opens up some interesting possibilities. For instance, they need heat, so they could be located near a brewery.

The contest ends September 15th, and the company expects the new greenhouse to be up and running in 2013.

I did some digging into BrightFarms and their projects. Although people in the Triangle have expressed interest in urban farming, there is currently nothing here near the size and scope of what this company plans to do and what they have executed on elsewhere in the country.

BrightFarms finances, builds and operates greenhouses and partners with farmers to grow produce that are mostly staples -- lettuces, tomatoes, herbs -- to be delivered to local supermarkets.

The company enters into 10-year purchase agreements with grocers, requiring them to buy 100 percent of their greenhouses' output at fixed prices. They also contract with local farmers to guarantee volume and quality.

A one-acre greenhouse costs BrightFarms $1.5 million to $2 million to build, and they will create six full-time jobs per acre, plus about 50 part-time construction jobs.

Formed in 2011 out of the merger of a consultancy and a nonprofit, Brighthouse has 15 employees in Manhattan. Their board of directors and investors include some big names in the local food/urban farming space: Ted Caplow, chairman of the board, is also founder of New York Sun Works, a nonprofit that promotes urban sustainability; and Robert Kenner, an investor, is director of the documentary, Food Inc.

The company did not disclose anything in the way of finances, but SEC filings show they raised $4.3 million in a Series A round in 2011.

Kate Siskel, BrightFarms spokeswoman, said their projects in Pennsylvania and Minnesota are similar to what they plan to do in the Triangle.

The company also has a Brooklyn project, a 100,000-square-foot greenhouse billed as "the world's largest rooftop farm." (NYTimes has a story on that here)

Both Raleigh and Durham's mayors and entrepreneurship/sustainability folks have given their blessings to the planned new greenhouse.

From the press release: "We have a long history of appreciation for locally grown food as evidenced by the thousands of people who frequent our area farmer's markets," says Mayor of Raleigh, Nancy McFarlane. "I am confident this is a concept our community will embrace."

"BrightFarms' interest in Durham is a testament to the city's vibrant business community and dedication to reducing carbon emissions," says Mayor of Durham, Bill Bell.


So where will BrightFarms' next greenhouse be built?