US-based vertical-farming business BrightFarms has secured a new round of funding from existing investors to expand its network across the country.

The US$100m Series E round was led by Cox Enterprises, a diversified company in Atlanta, Georgia, operating in communications, automotive and media, and which also invests in “transformative industries”. The company now holds a majority, but undisclosed stake, in BrightFarms based in Irvington, New York, according to a statement.

Catalyst Investors, a venture-capital fund located in the same state, also contributed to the latest financing round, which takes BrightFarms’ funding to date to $200m since it was founded in 2011 by Paul Lightfoot, who is currently president of the business. Still, the firm’s first indoor farm was not launched until 2016, a company spokesperson confirmed.

BrightFarms grows a range of leafy greens using controlled environment technology such as baby spinach, arugula, romaine lettuce and basil from its vertical farms in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Three others are under development in North Carolina, Massachusetts and Texas, it said.

The company has “established close partnerships” with retailers Ahold Delhaize, Kroger and Walmart, and currently supplies more than 2,000 stores. It plans to increase distribution to 15,000 outlets by 2025. 

CEO Steve Platt said: “Our goal over the next five years is to make quality, locally-grown greens a staple on grocery shelves and in refrigerators nationwide. We are thrilled to have the strong financial backing of Cox Enterprises, an organisation that closely aligns with our mission to build a healthier and more sustainable future, and to have the additional support of our long-term partners at Catalyst Investors. 

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“Together we are ready to scale our model for local indoor farming in every major market in the US.”

Vertical, or indoor farming, is an alternative means to cultivate fresh produce without the need for soil or pesticides and requires less water than traditional methods. Vertically-farmed produce can also be grown closer to customer locations, ensuring freshness, and with the added advantage that crops can be cultivated all year round.  

BrightFarms said its indoor farms yield “ten times more leafy greens per acre when compared to growing in a field” and its products can be delivered to customers within 24 hours after harvest, “about a week faster than leafy greens grown conventionally on the West Coast”.