“In 2020, we weren’t just expanding but also driving access to Bowery’s products,” says Katie Seawell, chief commercial officer at Bowery.
Based in New York, Bowery mainly serves the eastern US. According to Katie, Bowery’s products are found in 850+ stores. In 2020, Bowery grew by over 750% and experienced more than 4X growth in e-commerce. While the high sales in 2020 have certainly been a high point for the company, Katie explains that Bowery is particularly focused on democratizing the supply of local, fresh food.
Value proposition meeting consumer trends
As Katie notes, consumers are increasingly interested in locally produced food, especially during and following the COVID-19 pandemic which highlighted issues surrounding food supply and food safety in a globalized system. Consumers are also pushing for simplicity and transparency surrounding food supply and since Bowery is fully vertically integrated, the company has complete control over the process from seed to shelf, according to Katie.
On a logistical note, the pandemic has resulted in more consumers purchasing fresh food online which requires a certain level of trust. “Online fresh food purchasing ties in well with our value proposition because we are transparent, consistent and predictable. When you’re looking at all of these consumer trends, there is a clear intersectionality with our value proposition,” says Katie.
Farm X: breeding program
In early May 2021, Bowery opened its second R&D facility, Farm X, an innovation hub for plant science and research development. More specifically, Bowery will be working on its in-house breeding program, a first for a vertical farming company. Katie explains that developing its breeding program is critical to ensuring Bowery’s continued growth into other product categories.
“We believe that Bowery’s approach can help strengthen local and regional food systems. To do that, we need to have a material impact in multiple categories of products. While we are proud of our products, we are just getting started on how we think about optimizing for certain seed characteristics,” says Katie.
Inside Farm X
Farm X is located in Kearney, New Jersey, and will also work to optimize the Bowery operating system and generally accelerate learning and development within the company. As Katie explains, Farm X provides Bowery with a high level of granularity to collect data, optimize growing conditions and repeat.
“That is the power of networked farms: the ability to scale quickly. Everything is connected through our proprietary operating system, which takes all of the data from our proprietary technology and which uses sensors, robotics, automation, machine learning and more to replicate the optimal growing conditions for each individual plant, in any of our farms. Farm X will help facilitate that whole process,” Katie explains.
“We are very passionate about where our growth is happening. We want to democratize access to fresh food and open up addressable markets.” Katie explains.
An example of this is the partnership between Bowery’s Baltimore farm and DC Central Kitchen, a non-profit which purchases Bowery’s product at a wholesale price and sells to small, neighborhood stores through the Healthy Corners food program. This allows Bowery to extend its impact into communities that may have less access to fresh foods.
Third farm under construction
Bowery’s current facilities include its R&D Center of Excellence, a commercial farm, and its newest R&D Innovation Hub for Plant Science, Farm X, in Kearny, NJ, as well as its Nottingham, Maryland, farm. The company is currently building its third commercial farm in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which is slated to be Bowery’s most automated and technologically advanced farm.
While Bowery’s Maryland farm is run on 100% low-impact renewable energy, the Bethlehem farm will feature industry-leading environmental improvements, including energy-reducing LED lighting, and a state-of-the-art water recapture system, with the goal of reclaiming nearly all of the water used in its growing process.
Between its three commercial farms, Bowery expects to produce 20,000,000 clamshells per year. This level of production, according to Katie, is proof that “indoor farming isn’t just a niche opportunity; there is a strong commercial opportunity.”
Highlighting greens’ flavor with Farmer’s Selection
To encourage consumers to explore new products and flavors, Bowery launched a new product line called Farmer’s Selection in January 2021. Farmer’s Selection will highlight a particular green for four months, which will be sold in limited quantities at select retailers. Its first product highlight was Mustard Frills, which Bowery describes as “a mustard green with a fiery bite, wasabi-like finish and super frilly texture.”
Bowery recently announced Green Sorrel, “bright, tart baby greens with a zing,” as its next release in this new product category. Bowery Farming Green Sorrel will be available in select NYC and Mid-Atlantic independent retailers and at Whole Foods Market stores in the Mid-Atlantic US through the end of August.
“Farmer’s Selection is an incredible opportunity to showcase the unexpected flavor that you can get from leafy greens. We want consumers to buy our products for the health benefits, sustainability and taste,” says Katie.
Irving Fain, CEO & Co-Founder will be speaking on a panel at the virtual Indoor AgTech Innovation Summit including about ‘Financing Resilient Food Systems: Why the World’s Most Renowned Investors are Betting on CEA’ at 12.20 EST on June 24. Later on in the day, he will also host a roundtable discussion on ‘Deals of 2021: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ at 14.55 EST.