Karst chat with Paul Lightfoot: taking local to the roof

04/06/2012 11:16:00 AM
Tom Karst

2:36 p.m. Karst: So you are obviously developing the property for use as a hydroponic greenhouse.Is it your ambition to have several of these greenhouses and operate them yourselves, or to market the concept and have other people take ownership?

2:37 p.m. Lightfoot: We will own the facility and operate it on behalf of our supermarket clients. In every instance we will hold on to the facility and will operate it and deliver the output to supermarkets. That’s the model we are rolling out everywhere.

2:38 p.m. Karst: What the crops you are looking to grow in the Brooklyn greenhouse?

2:39 p.m. Lightfoot: In this case, it will be lettuce and tomatoes and a small amount of a small amount of herbs like basil. That may not always be the case, but what will always be the case is that we are looking for the intersection between high demand, our ability to grow that product in a controlled hydroponic environment, and the arbitrage opportunity. For example, we’re not trying to grow kale here, because kale doesn’t present a great arbitrage opportunity; you can grow kale pretty easily in a lot of places and pretty cheaply, but lettuce and tomatoes, we feel they are produced relatively inefficiently in North America. Lettuce in particularly is almost entirely coming from the West Coast and is produced in a way that the producer of the food getting less than half of the wholesale cost. We see that as an arbitrage opportunity, for us to come in with competitive pricing and still make money by cutting costs out of the supply chain.

2:40 p.m. Karst: When will the facility have produce coming off the roof?

2:41 p.m. Lightfoot: We are planning to be live in the first quarter of 2013.

2:41 p.m. Karst: Do you think this concept is transferable to other cities as well?

2:42 p.m. Lightfoot: Absolutely.

2:42 p.m. Karst: What is the reaction from the supermarkets in the city and are you getting positive energy out of that?

2:42 p.m. Lightfoot: The reaction of the supermarkets has been unbelievable. The supermarket industry recognized that they are paying more for transportation and distribution than they are for some products. That doesn’t make them feel great. They want to sell good food at good prices to their customers, and they realize that the length and complexity of some of the supply chains are making it so they are not selling good food at prices. They are selling (products) don’t last very long, that aren’t safe in some cases, that lack the taste and nutrition they would have if they were fresher and more local. And that is the reason they are reacting very warmly to it and why a lot of big supermarket chains in the country are working on projects with us. We’re simply coming to them and saying, we are going to give you a better product at the same or lower prices in a way that is better for the environment.



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