US (IA): Removing seasonality by rolling out multiple farms throughout the state

“We want Nebullam Farms to be available in every city throughout the US, so we can fulfill our mission of creating access to reliable and local food for everyone, year-round,” says Clayton Mooney, founder of Nebullam.

Over half of the Nebullam team is comprised of Iowa State University Alumni. Today, Nebullam HQ and its Nebullam Farm 1 in Ames, located in the Iowa State University Research Park. At the end of this year, the company will be launching Nebullam Farm 2, which will be in another location in Iowa.


Clayton Mooney, founder

Tomatoes as a cash cow
The company’s staple food is Red Butterhead Lettuce. Next to that, Nebullam grows Red Oakleaf lettuce, pea shoots, micro radish, broccoli sprouts, and cherry- and slicer tomatoes. “What we grow comes from direct feedback from our subscribers. Tomatoes are a great example, as we started trialing them in mid-2020, delivered samples to chefs, produce managers, and subscribers,” notes Clayton. He says that their feedback helped to bring the tomatoes to market 3 months earlier than expected, which has continued to add to Nebullam’s revenue. Now, the company is looking at peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, and spinach, which are subscriber requests. 

Removing seasonality
Clayton explains that Iowa is known for its traditional agriculture, so the team often receives puzzled looks when telling people Nebullam uses no soil and grows year-round. Iowans are used to the seasons and only having access to local food a fraction of the year. By harvesting every week and delivering to people’s doorsteps just 3 hours after harvest, Nebullam has provided the opportunity to remove seasonality. “People are noticing and the loyalty continues to compound with our brand, EatLettuce.com,” Clayton affirms.

A microgreens niche
Clayton explains that a big portion of marketing is on educating consumers around microgreens. To show the benefits of broccoli sprouts and how versatile they are in meals (salads, burgers, shakes) is something the company is excited about. “Not too many farms in Iowa grow microgreens, and we’re excited to provide nutrient-packed food options to subscribers.”

Here in Ames, we’re well-positioned for future company growth as well, because Iowa State University is in the backyard, which has a top 10 Ag school for our recruiting.” Nebullam has collaborated with Iowa State University in the past. Clayton notes that Nebullam will continue to collaborate to help advance what’s offered when it comes to education around vertical farming and Ag and Food Tech careers.

Market opportunity
Nebullam Co-Founder and CTO, Danen Pool, observed how antiquated indoor farming was and still is today. The average indoor farm takes 7 years to reach profitability, according to Clayton. That’s mostly because the growing equipment produces little food, while still requiring a lot of onsite labor in day-to-day operations. “We saw the opportunity to design and build growing equipment that was easily deployed, took advantage of cubic feet, and was run by software. Now, 4 years in, we’re seeing great unit economics and margins, especially with our direct-to-consumer subscription model,” he adds.

The company recently wrapped up another round of fundraising and has an all-star lineup of investors supporting them. “City-by-city, we’re excited to launch Nebullam Farms. When we achieve our mission of creating access to reliable and local food for everyone, year-round, our vision can come to life: removing seasonality in food from existence. We’re just getting started,” says Clayton.

For more information:
Clayton Mooney, founder
Nebullam
c@nebullam.com 
www.nebullam.com 

 


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