This interview details Greenswell Growers, an indoor farming company based in the United States. The interview is with Carl Gupton, CEO/President of Greenswell Growers.
The Greenswell story started 8+ years ago with the idea of helping provide healthier food options to our local foodbank, Feedmore. Feedmore was looking to increase the amount of produce that they gave out to their constituents to help improve their lifestyle.
Back then only about 25% of what they gave out was produced with the balance being canned goods. While canned goods can be a source of nutrition, they are historically high in sugars and sodium, which perpetuate the typical problems of heart disease and diabetes that are found in underserved communities. While trying to find local produce growers that wanted to donate their “B” Lots to Feedmore, our Founders, came across a small-scale hydroponic farm that was out-producing the adjacent conventional farm. That was the ”light bulb” moment that brought us down the path to where we are today. Years later a well-thought-out business model, brings us to where we are today at Greenswell Growers with our state-of-the-art, highly automated baby leafy greens greenhouse.
Most of the industry leaders talk about many of the same points of the embracing of AI, Cost of Capital, and penetrating market share vs. conventional farming. I think the key thing to figure out is how to scale while keeping your P&L and Balance Sheet in good shape. This is the key to having access to capital via traditional banking methods. This is key to all of our success as VC money is starting to shrink with some of the industry's “black eyes” over the past couple of years. We think we are on the winning side with the automated greenhouse method… less labor and scalable technology, not to mention that old sunlight from mother nature.
On top of available and cost-effective capital, we need to be aware of energy costs. Industry-wide, It’s typically our largest cost input and I don’t see that number shrinking. We have to blend in sustainable energy methods, but they have to be financially feasible as well. We can’t just do it, to put a sticker on our package. We have to do it in a way that makes sense for our business/industry. Something I look for in our business decision is both environmentally sustainable and financially sustainable. That is key to our long-term success with our community and our business as a whole.
I think our roots in our community really help to guide our business. Every decision we make is ties back to the idea of how can we grow the best product possible, knowing that customers will follow if we have the freshest and best-tasting product on the market… clearly we are a little biased!! I also think our “go slow, to go fast” business model has worked in our favor. We proved with our first greenhouse that there is a market/customer, we can do it in an economically feasible way, and that technology is key to our success. We now have all those tools in place and we think we are in a great position to grow our business and customer base across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.
Yield, yield, yield, and more yield. Patrik from Green Automation said it at the beginning when we commissioned our growing system and we have lived and breathed it. With that yield, it has to be a high-quality yield. The year-round flavor and freshness are the key to CEA's success as a whole. As we have evolved and gotten our business going over the past two years, we have been focused on data and identifying the drivers of a successful and sustainable greenhouse.
We are also focused on the right customer/business mix that meets the seasonality of demand and understanding consumer behaviors. Then we have to match up our output to that demand. With CEA having a growing market share, we have to keep a close eye on output levels and make sure we don’t fall behind in our infrastructure needs. The key to that is having the right partners who can grow and scale with you, both on the infrastructure side and the customer side. We want partners, not just vendors. We also want to be seen as a partner, not just a vendor taking orders. To do that we have to keep a sharp focus on the future and embrace the change that comes with it.
Our main focus for 2024 is expanding our current facility to meet the growing demand for our product. We think we have the right partners in place to make this a successful execution, which will turn set us up for long-term success. We are looking to grow our already talented team and we have to look both internally and externally to make that happen. We partner with our local educational system (at all levels… high school, community college, and traditional college programs), to help educate and grow interest in our industry.
I love watching the kids’ faces when they see our greenhouse for the first time. It blows their minds the level of automation it takes to take a seed from germination to your fridge at home without having to be touched by a human hand along the way. We have to win over this next generation. When we see that connection, we run with it, whether that’s via internships or direct hires. We have to constantly be growing our talent pool and the bi-product is a more educated customer base that values the goodness Greenswell Growers brings to the dinner table!
I’m a bit of an open book. I try and talk to our partners/ friendly competitors in the industry as much as possible. I’m here to learn from others and share what we have learned along the way…. The age-old “rising tide” theory. If anyone wants to reach out to us, hit us up at email@example.com. I still answer that email address and actually look forward to those emails… just don’t yell at me for my response time!
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