Madison, Maine-based Backyard Farms LLC is set to open a new research-and-development facility.
The facility, to open in March, will be a free-standing building next door to an existing greenhouse, said Tim Cunniff, Backyard Farms’ executive vice president of sales and marketing.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Cunniff said. “It took awhile to find the right head for the R&D project, then it took awhile to find the best location.”
At the new R&D center, Backyard Farms will experiment with new seed varieties and other new technologies, with the goal of turning out better-tasting tomatoes, Cunniff said.
Jeff McElroy, Backyard Farms’ vice president of research and development, will lead efforts at the new R&D facility, Cunniff said.
For McElroy, it means a chance to spread out his operations in his own space.
“He’s always been (doing R&D), but he’s had to work in our greenhouse,” Cunniff said. “There’s more space, different ways to secure calibrations. He can get a lot more aggressive with his experiments.”
Company officials hope the new facility will turn a good R&D operation into a great one.
“In the past, we were limited,” Cunniff said. “Which was fine — it gave us a good sense of what we could grow. But now we can really push ourselves.”
Backyard Farms has been happy with the consistent quality it’s been able to provide its customers year-round. But if there’s anything Cunniff and other company officials have learned, it’s that in the fresh produce industry, you can’t stop improving.
“We realize that you can’t rest on your laurels,” Cunniff said. “It’s a very competitive industry, and there are a lot bigger guys than us out there.”