Karst chat with Paul Lightfoot: taking local to the roof

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

2:50 p.m. Karst: What do you think will be you biggest challenge before you starting putting tomatoes and lettuce in cases for delivery in New York?

2:50 p.m. Lightfoot: We’ve got a supermarket selling our product right now from a Long Island greenhouse so it is already going. For the project in Bucks County, the contract has already been signed with the supermarket and it is just a matter of construction. There are not a whole lot of hurdles there. In terms of scaling out, though, across the country - our goal is local produce nationwide - one of our greatest hurdles is that the supermarket industry is inherently conservative. Typically, they will adapt innovations when they are forced to competitively but not that many supermarkets are pushing boundaries on their own. In this case, getting them to agree to long term fixed price contracts for produce is not how they have done it historically. That’s one of our biggest challenges is getting many of them to agree to something different than the way they have always done it. But it’s working. We’ve got a couple out there and we’re working on more and it is the snowball effect. As they see others doing it, they react.

2:51 p.m. Karst: Do you see a facility’s output going to one chain, or is it an arrangement where the product would be available to all chains that might be interested.

2:52 p.m. Lightfoot: No, no. Very clearly it will be one supermarket. We are in discussions with several metro area supermarket chains. We will ultimately choose to do business with one of them. When they think about it, they view this as being a national model for urban agriculture and this is the most productive truly urban farm I think that the country is going to have and it ot focused on restaurants or schools. It is focused on supermarkets. So whoever becomes our partner in this project will really be the most innovative local food supermarket on wide scale in the country. It is a chance for them to establish themselves in the biggest city in the country as a model for the rest of the country.


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