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Finding Innovation in Deviation

Finding Innovation in Deviation

The best road to innovation is deviation.

As poet Robert Frost once poignantly wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”

Whether it be turning an accepted way of thinking on its head, tweaking processes, or utilizing new tools, straying from the ordinary course of action is what leads to evolution.

Take it from Local Bounti, which has made it its mission to reimagine the concept of fresh with its local, sustainable farming methods. Through these practices, the greenhouse trendsetter is delivering a new standard of quality focused on supporting people, produce, and the planet, along with providing a 365-day growing season.

“Transporting produce across large distances can put a strain on resources and reduce the quality of the product that people have access to buy. We know locally grown produce lasts longer, reducing food waste and, in consequence, making the food more affordable and available,” Brian Cook, President, explains from behind his desk. As the former Chief Executive Officer of Pete’s and now in his role with Local Bounti, Brian has overseen countless cutting-edge moves, so his connection to innovation runs deep. “We are typically able to reach retailers within 400 miles, dramatically reducing food miles and waste while increasing shelf-life. Most produce spends weeks in transport on the way to the produce aisle, but we believe there is a better way.”

Bucking tradition, the supplier utilized its advanced proprietary technology to help usher in a new era in ag, offering its partners and their shoppers benefits that go beyond the plate while still delivering nutritious, high-quality products that are sought after in the produce department.

At the heart of the grower’s development is a fierce dedication to establishing a network of local roots that can feed national expansion. This concept also serves to meet increased consumer demand for locally produced offerings while minimizing the environmental impacts of transportation.

Harnessing this concept, Local Bounti used its distinct strategy to scale its business tremendously, proving that acting on a local level creates the basis for nationwide expansion. The greenhouse innovator’s offerings are available in over 10,000 retail locations in 35 of the United States and Canadian provinces.

While this idea of acting locally and thinking globally seems simple on the surface, there is complex technology at play behind the scenes.

“We know locally grown produce lasts longer, reducing food waste and, in consequence, making the food more affordable and available.”

Brian Cook, President, Local Bounti

“Our proprietary Stack & Flow Technology™ allows for numerous crop cycles per year and makes it possible for us to deliver locally grown produce throughout the U.S.,” says Brian. “As we grew, we knew the only way to gain market share was to continue pursuing the best unit economics in the industry. Local Bounti is unique in that we introduced the efficiency of vertical farming—the stack—but we also benefit from Mother Nature and established proven greenhouse—flow—technology. We can increase yield by 1.5–2 times and produce 26 crop cycles per year versus 13–17 at other traditional controlled environment agriculture greenhouse facilities.”

In other words, Local Bounti is continuing to innovate and accelerate its hybrid approach to growing that combines the yield advantages of vertical farming with the efficiency of greenhouse cultivation. Its cultivation uses an average of 90 percent less land and 90 percent less water than comparable alternatives.

As its technology progresses, so too does the company’s need for a greater number of facilities. In addition to Local Bounti’s flagship facility in Hamilton, Montana, the grower also completed the construction of a facility in Byron, Georgia. It is now expanding the operation’s footprint from three to six acres while implementing its Stack & Flow technology.

To top it off, the company has more developments in the works.

This includes the creation of two new facilities that will give Local Bounti a leg up in several bustling U.S. regions that can benefit from its local model.

“Most produce spends weeks in transport on the way to the produce aisle, but we believe there is a better way.”

“Currently, we are moving forward with construction on a new facility in Mount Pleasant, Texas, which is slated to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2023,” Brian details. “We are also continuing construction on our 3-acre facility in Pasco, Washington. This cutting-edge facility bolsters our Pacific Northwest reach with our leafy greens products. When both are fully operational, they will be key in increasing our presence in the Pacific Northwest, South-Central, and East Coast markets.”

But the expansion does not end there.

With greater capabilities and a larger footprint, Local Bounti is unleashing a series of unique items to continue building its incredible brand loyalty.

“Over just a few years, we have successfully increased our SKU count exponentially and added innovative value-added items like salad kits and heat-and-eat lettuce wraps,” Brian tells me. “Following our 2022 acquisition of Pete’s, we are ramping up new product innovation and focusing on elevating the Local Bounti brand. This has resulted in greater affinity with consumers, which we continue to prioritize as we see more and more repeat customers interested in our products.”

Just recently, Local Bounti entered the heat-and-eat category that Brian mentioned with its new Asian Style Chicken Lettuce Wrap Kits, which answers a rising call from consumers—and, therefore, retailers—to include more flavorful, value-added meal kits in the produce department. And, in the case of Local Bounti, shoppers can feel even better about their purchase decision because the products are fresh, healthy, and sustainable.

Further answering the call for convenient, better-for-you offerings, Local Bounti is planning to expand its Grab & Go Salad Kit line with the addition of two new SKUs: Artisanal Chicken Caesar and Memphis BBQ Chicken. And while Brian isn’t spilling the details, there are more items in the works.

One thing is for sure, though, as Local Bounti continues its mission, the grower will stay true to its values for the sake of people and Mother Nature.

“Since founding Local Bounti, we’ve continued to deliver on our promise to increase produce shelf-life, reduce waste, conserve water, address food scarcity in local communities, and lower greenhouse gas emissions,” Brian proudly states. “As we continue to grow, we are committed to exposing more consumers to this new standard of fresh.”

Although the word “disruption” can have a negative connotation in some cases, Local Bounti has shown that when it comes to the status quo, a little bit of disturbance can, in fact, lead to large-scale positive changes.

The next time you’re facing diverging paths, think of Local Bounti and its innovative prowess and take the road less traveled. In the end, it not only makes a world of difference, but it makes the world different. 

Finding Innovation in Deviation