KANSAS CITY - With more and more consumers wanting the same quality and consistency in their fresh produce 365 days a year, demand for greenhouse-grown product continues to surge.
Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer for Pure Hothouse Foods Inc., Leamington, Ontario, which markets the Pure Flavor brand, said Pure Hothouse continues to strengthen its greenhouse lineup by swapping in better-performing varieties that offer greater yield; greater consistency in color, shape, and size; and, most important, better flavor.
Sweet bell peppers, long English cucumbers, tomatoes-on-the-vine and beefsteak tomatoes make up the core of Pure Hothouse’s product roster. But the company is constantly looking to tweak that roster to bring innovative new items to product, like its wide array of snacking products.
“The growth of the industry is not solely reliant on delivering the staple items each week,” Veillon said. “It’s about adding value to the category with unique varieties which are predominately coming from the snacking category.”
Other than addition to its snacking product lineup, Pure Hothouse’s most exciting recent development is its acreage expansion, Veillon said.
“The significant investment we’re making in our infrastructure is a win-win situation,” he said. “Significant increase in demand has prompted the need for rapid growth of our production facilities. This is our first season of reducing food miles for products grown in Leamington vs. having them grown in other regions.”
The demand for beefsteak tomatoes and cucumbers, in particular, has fueled Pure Hothouse’s expansion to meet the needs of its various partner contracts, Veillon added. The expansion has also helped ensure a consistent supply when typically most retailers and foodservice would be sourcing from points south.
Pure Hothouse is expanding its grower network to ensure it can meet growing demand week over week, he said. Expansion into different growing regions is allowing the company to increase its supply and forge new relationships with growers but also with retail partners.
The biggest news on the expansion front in recent years for Pure Hothouse has been the addition of a facility in Fort Valley, Georgia, the first phase of which kicked off in late 2017.
“One of the key benefits of growing in Georgia is the ability to grow through the winter season,” Veillon said. “We are able to accomplish that due to using supplemental lighting in the greenhouse to make up for the lack of natural light from Mother Nature.”
Using High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lighting provides two benefits to the operation: increased hours of light; and intense heat, which provides more for the greenhouse.
Raised awareness for locally grown product in Georgia, especially during the winter months, has prompted more retailers to get behind the program, Veillon said. And Pure Flavor provides merchandising and marketing support with display bins that help retailers raise awareness for the product. The company also invests significantly in what Veillon calls “geo-specific content” targeted to specific regions to raise awareness for brand, product, and retail availability
“Reducing food miles is a tremendous opportunity to get fresher product to market faster,” Veillon said. “Limiting the distance that fresh fruits and vegetables must travel benefits the consumers who buy on a regular basis.”
Sustainably growing vegetables in high tech greenhouses ensures a consistent supply, he added, and as a vertically integrated greenhouse company, Pure Hothouse also has a family of growers that are strategically located throughout North America — in addition to its own Georgia facility — which allows the company to remove the seasonality of certain items.
“All of our greenhouse grown vegetables are available year-round with regional program producing at different times of the year,” he said. “People want consistency of supply. Fields can only produce so much, but for a sustainable growing strategy employed by a greenhouse grower, the plant will continue to produce product like clockwork: consistent size, quality, flavor, and of course, availability.”
Revol Greens adds Texas to expansion plans
Owatonna, Minn.-based Revol Greens has closed a $68 million funding round that will fund the construction of the company's third facility — a 20-acre phase of a planned 80-acre facility in Texas.
The latest funding round led by Equilibrium Capital brings the company’s financing total to $215 million as it works to build its portfolio to five locations in five years. With facilities in three states, Revol is building a regional network of high-tech greenhouses that will initially supply 33 million pounds of greens annually and reach a third of the US population within 24 hours of harvest.
“Revol has spent three years bundling technology, applications, recipes and data in a Minnesota climate where temperature and humidity reach extremes,” said Mark Schulze, chief executive officer of Revol Greens. “We are confident that we can deploy our technology anywhere on the planet. Our team has unparalleled experience in designing and deploying controlled environment agriculture (CEA) technology, and with Equilibrium at our side, we have become very efficient at doing so. By the end of next year, Revol will be the world’s largest indoor lettuce producer. Our goal is to lead the agtech revolution in leafy greens.”
Revol Green’s greenhouses use a climate-controlled environment that utilizes closed-loop hydroponics to eliminate potentially harmful runoff seen in traditional field-grown greens. The greenhouse method provides 80% of needed sunlight, optimizing inputs needed for plants to grow and limiting waste of resources.
The new funding announcement follows Revol’s recent expansion in Minnesota, along with a new facility in Tehachapi, Calif. The company also released three new products in July including Romaine Twins, Green Leaf Crunch and Power Up Blend, bringing Revol Green’s product portfolio to 10 varieties.