Fifth Season is expanding to build its second robotic vertical farm in Columbus, Ohio, to fulfill the demand for fresher greens and Fifth Season ready-to-eat salads at major retailers like Giant Eagle and Kroger. The team's strategy to create a new fresh food ecosystem from a proprietary end-to-end autonomous farming platform with superior unit economics is working. To support the growth, expand distribution and achieve the mission of creating a more sustainable fresh food chain, Fifth Season has also hired new people.
"We've proven the viability of our model, and we're pushing forward into high-growth mode with leaders who will use our scalable platform to innovate and increase distribution now, not five years from now," says Fifth Season's CEO, Austin Webb.
The investment in new hires will allow Fifth Season to manage its 600 percent projected sales growth of ready-to-eat salads in 2022, which will be fulfilled by the flagship farm in Braddock. The Fifth Season farm in Columbus will begin operations in 2023, will be 180,000 square feet - approximately three times the size of the Braddock farm - and, like all Fifth Season Farms, will feature best-in-class automation. "Thanks to our modular design, no software work is needed to integrate Bots into the new facility, they just start working together in their new configuration," says Fifth Season CTO, Brac Webb. "At the Braddock farm, we have just over 100 instances of our Bots in use, and at the future Columbus farm we plan to have around 250 instances." The Columbus farm will also prioritize renewable solar energy and leverage an onsite microgrid.
Growing the team
Along with the physical expansion of the farming operation and sales growth comes an expansion of Fifth Season's team – the company is expected to grow to more than 100 full-time employees by early 2023. To start, Fifth Season has made three new leadership hires, including CFO Brian Griffiths, a finance and tech industry veteran who has experience both as a technology banker and operator. "From my 30 years of experience in technology, it was immediately clear to me that Fifth Season is in a league of its own," says Griffiths. "We're positioned to continue being the most capital-efficient company in our sector and rapidly scale our business."
Fifth Season has also added two long-time pioneers in the food industry, VP of Food Products, Varun Khanna, and SVP of Sales, Glenn Wells, who will leverage their combined experience of more than 45 years to advance the business.
Each leader brings extensive experience.
Brian Griffiths, Chief Financial Officer Griffiths is an accomplished financial and tech executive with 30+ years of experience in the corporate, investment banking, and public accounting sectors. Prior to joining Fifth Season, Brian was CFO at a leading semiconductor company, Skorpios Technologies. He also served as Managing Director at Credit Suisse, Guggenheim Partners, and Spurrier Capital Partners, where he advised leading technology companies on capital raising and M&A across the globe.
Varun Khanna, Vice President of Food Products Khanna is a CPG innovation leader with a track record for creating products that delight shoppers and achieve high velocity both in natural channel and conventional grocery. Prior to joining Fifth Season, Khanna served as the innovation leader at Sabra and Chobani, where he led high-performing teams with a consumer-first approach to achieve groundbreaking, industry-first launches.
Glenn Wells, Senior Vice President of Sales Glenn is a produce sales and marketing executive who specializes in value creation through innovation, insights, strategy, and execution. He's had success in multiple channels across North America, including food, mass, club, drug, and food service. Prior to joining Fifth Season, Wells was a leader at iconic brands like Quaker Oats, Welch's, and Dole.