Bradley Nattrass, co-founder and CEO urban-gro:

“We can now provide an underserved market with a great solution”

“We are now able to provide a phenomenal capability that does not exist right now in the CEA space,” says Bradley Nattrass, co-founder and CEO of urban-gro. The company recently announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Emerald Construction Management. “We now have a set of services and capabilities that are all in-house. We think this will not only further our company from others, but also provide an underserved market with a great solution that will help companies get to market quicker.”

Bradley Nattrass, co-founder and CEO of urban-gro  

“One or two extra harvests”
urban-gro is focused on the indoor controlled environment agriculture (CEA) market, for both the cannabis industry and food-focused vertical farming. Nattrass explains that the design and build of the mid-sized facility is an underserved market. “You have many large greenhouse builders, who build multi-hectare-sized greenhouses. But they are not scaled correctly to build the mid-sized facility, of around 20,000-50,000 square feet. Because of the acquisition, we now have everything in-house. For example, we now have the ability to have all of the construction documents, the design of the cultivation, the selection of all of the equipment systems, and on-site project management; all under one roof. This allows us to really manage the supply chain and the timing of the project.”

Nattrass gives the New Jersey market as an example. “They are going to have a lot of smaller grow licenses. We now have a turnkey solution that is ready to go, with pre-certified construction documents and preselected equipment solutions. Therefore, we are confident that we can get clients to market one or two harvests quicker. Of course, a lot of that revolves around the supply chain. One of the things we can do, for example, is work closely with our partners to forecast the needs ahead of time. If there is a customized environmental control system wanted, we have the first 50% built out so that we can move to the customized portion. This can cut down four to six weeks of the time necessary. Another example is mechanical or cooling systems, which currently take about 4-5 months longer to obtain because of supply chain issues. Yet we can already start looking at those components much earlier in the process when we are only just conceptualizing the facility. Overall, we can help our clients manage through the supply chain challenges that are prevalent right now.”

Fulfilling the vision
From the start, urban-gro’s vision was to be able to do a complete turnkey design-build of facilities. “This acquisition was the last piece we needed in terms of fulfilling that vision and our offering. We are excited to work with Emerald Construction Management, integrating their skillsets into our current projects and allowing us the opportunity to integrate our solutions into some of theirs. With our recent acquisition of architecture firm MJ12 Design Studio, we were able to get a good sense of how our clients would respond to having it all under one roof."

Nattrass stresses, however, that there is more to it than just acquisitions; bringing in the right skill sets is very important. “For example, we recently hired a new Chief of Staff, JT Archer. Through his previous work, he was responsible for the design and build management from the client’s perspective, and has done so for seven cultivation facilities and a dispensary. Having such knowledge and skills in-house helps us to lead everything properly internally, and do things right the first time.”

The European market
When looking at their future, urban-gro is excited about the prospects of the European market, and their recent acquisition already provides benefits. Last year, the company signed an agreement with Urban Health Farms, to design and build up to 20 smaller-scale vertical farms. “Emerald Construction Management has access to a global network of contractors. That combined with the skill sets of their staff will make the European project much easier to execute.” Overall, the company sees strong demand for its services in Europe. “Unfortunately, the pandemic temporarily slowed down the cannabis developments in Europe. But we are now really having to increase our servicing there again, in countries such as North Macedonia, Paraguay, the UK, and The Netherlands. Our goal is to continue our expansion into Europe, so that we can bring the same service levels to our European clients.”

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