One year after Kansas City officials heralded a partnership with greenhouse startup BrightFarms to bring a 100,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse to the Berkley Riverfront Park, the company insists that things are about to sprout up.
Although the initial announcement of the hydroponic farm stated that BrightFarms would start construction before the end of 2013, they have yet to begin building. BrightFarms director of business development Toby Tiktinsky said the plans are moving along as they expected. Before they build (which the company vows will create 100 construction jobs), he explained the company needs to line up a supermarket chain that will sell all of the 1 million pounds of tomatoes, lettuce and herbs expected to be grown in the greenhouse each year.
“The next step is into an agreement with a supermarket, and we are in advanced negotiations with a retailer for the greenhouse,” he said. “Once we announce that, we can move forward with the permitting and building process.”
Tiktinsky won’t reveal the grocery chain BrightFarms is in talks with, but said it will be announced in the coming weeks. He maintains that finding a retail partner is the most time consuming part of a given project. “Because we’re doing something new with supermarkets, it does take up to two years to work through the process,” Tiktinksy said. BrightFarms will own and operate the greenhouse.
Once the company strikes an agreement with a chain, construction will begin. The produce grown in the greenhouse will be sold at the local supermarket locations. When the greenhouse is up and ready to go, BrightFarms will hire a 25-person local staff with “green collar” positions ranging from “head grower” who manages the entire operation, to produce packers. Tiktinksy said the local employees will be paid a living wage, but wouldn’t disclose an hourly rate range.
BrightFarms, which announced in February that it raised $4.9 million in its second investment round, has plans or completed greenhouses in seven other markets, including St. Louis and Washington, D.C.