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Canadian Indoor Ag Player TruLeaf Ramps Up Distribution

March 16, 2016

Canadian indoor vertical farming company TruLeaf has started selling produce in Canada under agreements with major retailers and distributors through its subsidiary, GoodLeaf Farms. Its first sales are with major North American distributor Gordon Food Service (GFS) and Halifax-based Local Source Market. The company has also announced it will be scaling its partnership with a large Canadian supermarket chain ahead of its first sales with them next month.

The US market is also well within TruLeaf’s reach with food e-commerce companies and premium marketplaces showing strong interest for its leafy greens.

The indoor farming company has begun sales with seven different products. These seven SKUs include baby kale, baby arugula, baby Romaine, NutraBlend, East Coast Medley, spinach, and basil and are being sold under the company’s GoodLeaf/Market Garden brand to each distributor.

“It’s quite a feat for an indoor farm to produce more than two SKUs,” said Greg Curwin, CEO of TruLeaf.

GoodLeaf made its first deliveries last month to GFS, which distributes food to restaurants, healthcare institutions and schools across North America. TruLeaf’s supply agreement with GFS is particularly scalable, especially with the imminent launch of a culinary microgreens program, according to Curwin.

“We started delivering our products to GFS three weeks ago, and it’s quickly ramping up, particularly with new varieties such as our GoodLeaf Petite platform (microgreens),” he said. “Our multiple varieties of microgreens will be sold into the restaurant sector meeting pent-up demand as microgreens are very difficult to grow and transport. This makes it essential for them to be grown close to demand. They are all chef inspired with maximum nutrition.”

Local Source Market is selling GoodLeaf products on the shelves of its local store with plans to add it to its distribution channels as well. “The guys at Local Source Market are very cool local food innovators and really like our clean, local and ultra-fresh leafy greens,” said Curwin.

TruLeaf, which also has an agreement in place with a national Canadian grocery chain, will start distributing its leafy greens to the Atlantic Canadian marketplace in 4-5 weeks. Distribution of GoodLeaf greens will start in Newfoundland and then expand across eastern Canada during the spring, and is expected to be fully rolled out by June, according to Curwin.

“These are major brands for us to be partnering with, and we are very excited that we will be starting our North American roll out journey with them.”

TruLeaf’s operations have scaled to support these deliveries using its innovative farming methods. Its vertical farm uses hydroponics and proprietary lighting and nutrient and growing recipes to produce nutritious greens. Curwin, whose past life as a healthcare entrepreneur, underlines that his approach to indoor farming is as much a nutritional play as an agricultural play.

“We have unique IP and farm design to enhance the levels of nutrients in our products, and we’ve already done so by 30 percent to 40 percent by getting produce to consumers more quickly than traditional farming allows,” he said. “We want to tell consumers what’s in their produce and how it’s healthy for them through a high level of traceability, right down to the lot code and the package of seeds used in each tray, coupled with a focus on farm design and resource efficiency, automation, and data.”

This nutritional profile and the great taste of the produce is how Curwin is building the GoodLeaf brand.

There’s still a huge amount of capacity at GoodLeaf’s existing 10,000 square foot facility in Nova Scotia, which can grow 200,000 pounds of greens each year. “It’s a good commercial farm, and we have learned a lot that can be applied to new facilities,” said Curwin.

The company is already in advanced modeling of new facilities in Southern Ontario and San Francisco. “Unlike in Canada, there are multiple supermarkets and distribution channels in the US making the potential to scale there very exciting,” he said. “Traditional growers, particularly in water-challenged areas,  would find our technology an excellent augmentation to their business.”

By scaling the production and distribution of its produce, TruLeaf aims to become an import substitute to California, where much of North America’s leafy green produce comes from. And there are many more similar substitutions to be made elsewhere globally such as in the UK, where Spain provides much of the country’s leafy green produce.

TruLeaf is raising a $2.65 million Series A on AgFunder, a round which will close soon.

Have news or tips? Email [email protected]

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