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US (SC): Wholesale produce distributor launches vertical farm operation

Food distributors and retailers continue to partner with CEA brands to overcome their supply and food safety challenges. But as the demand for indoor-grown produce increases, one produce distributor has realized a greater potential for CEA and is blurring the lines between farmer and distributor to bring indoor-grown produce further up the value chain.

Senn Brothers Produce, a leading wholesale food distributor in South Carolina, recently launched its own vertical farm to support the introduction of its indoor-grown private-label brand, Sennsational Fresh, which features a variety of leafy greens in its product lineup. With full control of its lettuce supply, Senn Brothers is creating more added value for its customer network and increasing indoor-grown produce availability for end consumers.

To establish its farm operation, Senn Brothers partnered with agricultural technology provider AmplifiedAg to provide the modular farm infrastructure, software platform, and farm management advisory services. AmplifiedAg modular farms are resilient, compact, and scalable, enabling local food production year-round at key distribution points. With a precision-controlled environment, a single unit produces 3,400+ heads of lettuce every harvest with consistent high-quality yields, and the software platform manages and monitors harvest schedules, client orders, food safety alerts, and product distribution for complete farm business management.

Senn Brothers’ current operation produces over 112,000 lbs. of leafy greens annually and is anticipated to scale and diversify with client demand.

According to Zach Senn, the executive overseeing the vertical farming operation and third-generation family member of Senn Brothers Produce: “We’re forging a new way for distributors to supply produce to their buyer networks. At Senn Brothers, we strive for diversity in
what we offer and to provide consistency and value for our customers. The benefits of vertical farming allow us to control our supply and meet our food quality, food safety, and distribution

“We’ve been sourcing indoor-grown produce for the last few years. But operating our own farm gives us the flexibility to customize products and packs for clients and deliver them quickly instead of seeking new procurement. Right now, we’re trialing new custom blends with restaurant owners.”

The Sennsational Fresh product line currently features a variety of living lettuces, including green butter, green oak, red oak, and red butter coming soon - grown with zero pesticides and packed with delicious flavor, nutrition, and long-lasting freshness. Senn Brothers has received positive feedback from its customers and distributor partner network, including Produce Alliance - an alliance of 100+ independently-owned specialty distributors of fresh products with combined produce sales of over $6 billion annually.

Produce Alliance VP of Procurement, Josh Blanton said “Sennsational Fresh is a great way to truly take care of local business with local products. By Sennsational Fresh being centrally located in the Southeast, they are able to send fresh product quickly to their customers while having a small carbon footprint.”

“Senn Brothers is a progressive food service leader and we’re excited to collaborate with them on an endeavor that we believe will help shape the future produce supply infrastructure,” said CEO of AmplifiedAg, Don Taylor. “This operation is exemplary of how vertical farming can positively impact the supply chain by putting food production directly into the hands of distributors, and we strongly believe in our modular and high-performance CEA model for this
type of application.”

The Sennsational Fresh farm is located steps away from Senn Brothers’ Distribution Center, where the lettuce is packaged and delivered to customers 24 hours after being harvested.

“Senn Brothers now have full control over its own local lettuce supply, and with farming directly integrated in their distribution they have a tremendous gross margin opportunity which can already be seen by their scaling capacity,” adds Taylor.

AmplifiedAg enables a national network of commercial farmers, nonprofits, and agricultural researchers, including multiple USDA-ARS agencies. The company’s CEA technology platform features scalable modular farms and integrated farm and business software systems for turnkey CEA production.

Senn Brothers Produce is located in Columbia, S.C., and has been a trusted, family-owned, and operated food distributor for 79 years. And serves over 800 restaurants, school districts, military bases, and prisons across the Southeastern United States.

For more information:
[email protected]

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