In December 2018, New Jersey-based vertical farm company Bowery raised $90 million in new funding as it looked to expand and open its farms in to-be-determined cities. Earlier in 2018, Bowery opened its second farm in New Jersey and started producing six new products: romaine, bok choy, cilantro, parsley, a sweet & spicy mix, and a sauté mix.
Produce Grower: Of the new products, are there any most excited about?
Irving Fain: Our bok choy is something I’m actually pretty excited about, because you don’t typically see bok choy in a clamshell, the way we’re delivering it. We’ve seen consumers get really excited about it, just in terms of how we’re delivering it. But the other thing is, the bok choy itself is incredibly tasty. Bok choy is typically a crop that you see sautéed and cooked. You don’t see it raw. The quality and the taste in the bok choy itself — we got a lot of consumers reaching out to us and saying, “Hey, I just make a salad with your bok choy. I don’t need to cook it or do anything to it, and it’s fantastic.” And you’ve got other people who will sauté it and cook with it as well, and the product is great then.
PG: Why is prioritizing technological advancements a key part of Bowery’s business model?
IF: So I think the mission of Bowery is really democratized access to high-quality, fresh food. And one of the ways we can do that is to continue to drive innovation, which allows us to continue to expand our ability to produce new varieties, continue to expand our economics. And a lot of what allows that to happen, is innovation from a technical standpoint, whether it’s software innovation, hardware innovation or innovation on the automation side. The more efficient we as a business can get, the more opportunity we have to tie back to that mission I mentioned, where we can democratize access to high-quality, fresh foods. I’m in this business because I’m a believer fundamentally in innovation and its ability to solve hard and important problems.
PG: How much does Bowery emphasize food safety and prioritize it in a controlled environment?
IF: [It’s] absolutely critical. One of the important things of Bowery is our brand itself. We sell under our brand name as Bowery. By doing that, you need to be able to instill an amount of trust from the consumer themselves. We are actually Safe Quality Food [SQF]-certified and have been since our very first farm, and we take food safety extremely seriously and always will moving forward. I think it’s a real advantage that we have, because we’re not susceptible to some of the issues that the traditional food supply chain is and that have been plaguing them over the last six or so months.