Giant Food inks deal to build world's largest urban greenhouse

BrightFarms, a pioneer in building greenhouses attached to supermarkets, has signed a deal with Giant Food Stores to build the world's largest urban greenhouse.

The company is building a massive 100,000-square-foot greenhouse. It will deliver about 1 million pounds of fresh produce throughout the year to about 30 Giant supermarkets in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

BrightFarms, which operates its greenhouses as well as building them, expects this greenhouse to open this fall. As well as providing produce, plans include opening the greenhouse to schools as an educational tool on urban agriculture and sustainability.

This is the latest in a string of BrightFarms's partnerships with supermarket chains, including A&P, Cub and Pathmark. Recently, Marsh Supermarkets signed on for an Indianapolis-based greenhouse that will serve 97 stores in Indiana and Ohio.

Other BrightFarms greenhouses are under development in Kansas City, Mo.; Oklahoma City; St. Louis; and St. Paul.

The company also designs rooftop farms, such as the 10,000-square-foot farm that tops an affordable rental building in the Bronx. It use the building's waste heat and water harvested from the roof, and provides fresh vegetables to about 4,500 low-income residents who otherwise would not have access to fresh food.

BrightFarms uses the same model that's worked so well for solar power (leasing instead of owning solar systems). It takes complete responsibility for its greenhouses and rooftop farms by financing, building and operating them. Supermarkets sign on to a long-term purchase agreement that gives them fixed, reliable prices with minimal volume commitments.

In January, BrightFarms raised $4.9 million, after raising $4.3 million when it launched in 2011.

Top image of tomatoes by AS-kom via Shutterstock