Little Leaf Farms in Devens raises $90M for East Coast expansion
February 21, 2021 : Telegram & Gazette, by Marco Cartolano
DEVENS — Greenhouse-grown lettuce producer Little Leaf Farms has raised $90 million in debt and equity financing to build new East Coast sites to satisfy growing demand for its lettuce.
After opening in 2015, Little Leaf Farms has quadrupled in size. The company recently doubled its hydroponic greenhouse-growing capacity from 5 to 10 acres in Massachusetts and plans to continue growing by building more greenhouses across the East Coast.
Equilibrium Capital led the latest round of fundraising. Coppermine Capital, founding investor Bill Helman and Pilot House Associates were other key investors. Bank of America has already committed more than $20 million, with an additional $20 million planned in financing to support the company's growth.
“After opening our third greenhouse in Massachusetts last summer amid the pandemic, we have proven that we can bring the company to scale unlike any other,” Paul Sellew, Little Leaf Farms founder and CEO, said, “With our partners and committed financing, Little Leaf Farms is positioned to significantly disrupt the traditional lettuce industry and meet customer demand in a year when controlled environment agriculture is expected to soar. We continue to have record sales every week, and we only see that continuing.”
Sellew said that his company plans to use the $90 million to upgrade the Devens facility to keep it state-of-the-art and to build new greenhouses. Sellew said New England is currently Little Leaf Farms' core market and the company is looking at locations in north eastern Pennsylvania and North Carolina in order to branch into more East Coast and southeastern markets.
"When you start servicing the Philadelphia market, the New York City market, you want to have facilities that are closer to that market so that you maintain the local connection," Sellew said.
A Pennsylvania location could help Little Leaf's presence in cities such as Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore while Sellew said a North Carolina greenhouse could help the company expand into cities such as Atlanta and Richmond, Virginia.
Last year, the company doubled its retail sales from 2019 and made $38 million. Their lettuce is available in more than 2,500 stores along the East Coast.
“Equilibrium Capital’s growth equity investment in Little Leaf Farms brings together a major player in next-generation indoor agriculture with the leader in CEA investments,” said Dave Chen, the CEO of Equilibrium Capital who will be joining Little Leaf Farms' board of directors. “Little Leaf Farms is revolutionizing the industry with its sustainable indoor growing technologies, to grow fresh, nutritious great tasting lettuces and mixes. We are proud to partner with Little Leaf Farms to expand its high-tech farms across the East Coast.”
Little Leaf Farms produces more than 2 million boxes of lettuce each month. Last fall, delivery and sales of Little Leaf products were extended into New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“We are supportive of Little Leaf Farms’ efficient growing methods, using sunlight and captured rainwater, to grow delicious lettuce that only travels locally so it remains flavorful,” said Randy Mitchell, a senior vice president of global commercial banking at Bank of America. “We believe in the company’s environmentally and socially responsible mission as they expand into new markets on the East Coast.”