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Underneath the Spotlight: The Year of Growth

Underneath the Spotlight: The Year of Growth

Like Cher rocking sold-out stadiums or Serena Williams gracing the tennis courts at the US Open, the most exceptional stars often occupy the grandest stages. This is one of my first thoughts as I stroll through long rows painted with green leaves, smelling the alluring aroma of fresh vegetables grown under lights so bright it becomes obvious they are setting the stage for something amazing. If you can’t tell by now, I’m taking you on a walk through a vast, state-of-the-art greenhouse facility.

While Ontario, Canada, is just short of 2,000 miles away from the coffee shop I have settled in to pen this piece, I mentally traversed time and distance to reach one of the largest networks of greenhouses in North America—and the home of Mucci Farms.

When it comes to producing high-quality, greenhouse-grown products that fully deliver on flavor, Mucci Farms brings a lot to the table in the most literal sense. The distinguished grower-packer-shipper boasts a diversified portfolio of common greenhouse items such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers along with a number of specialty items, wielding its expertise in each of these categories to ensure the needs of its partners and consumers are met.

“At Mucci Farms, we are innovators from seed to retail and we consistently add new product offerings year after year to meet consumer demand. This includes specialty items such as lettuce, eggplant, as well as greenhouse-grown strawberries, which we were the first to grow indoors at scale for the North American market. In fact, we are doubling our current strawberry acreage from 72 acres to 144 to maintain our leadership in the berry space. With this expansion, there will be a full assortment of berries under glass, including blackberries and raspberries,” explains Joe Spano, Partner and Vice President of Sales and Marketing, as we explore the ongoing elevation of the Mucci Farms portfolio. “Our growth and expansions are exclusively guided by our customers. Everything we do starts and ends with a commitment to finding the best solutions for them and their customers. This can be seen in the dramatic growth of our strawberry operation, which started out as a 36-
acre project.”

There is a multitude of elements that harmonize to comprise the Mucci Farms operation, but some of the star players of the company’s portfolio can be found center-stage underneath a set of bright lights. This innovation itself represents a pivotal development that allows the provider to supply top-tier offerings year-round.

“Bolstering supply across the continent has always been of premium importance to Mucci Farms,” Joe assures. “We undergo major expansions and commission new builds on an annual basis, but a major key to our expanded supply lies in our lit-culture grow light program that extends our season to 365 days a year.”

Over 80 percent of the supplier’s acreage can be found under these lights, demonstrating a key investment made by Mucci Farms to ensure its retail partners can rely on the company to provide consistent, high-quality products all year long. Further enhancing its reliability and production capacity, the fresh produce provider also expands its network of grower partners on a yearly basis, building on its 2,000-acre greenhouse footprint in North America. This includes establishing formidable partnerships with support growers in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

In fact, strong alliances like these have rolled out the red carpet and helped position Mucci Farms in the industry spotlight. As a result, the grower continues to establish valuable relationships while uncovering new opportunities to expound upon its success. In 2021, Mucci Farms checked off a key milestone and established a new marketing agreement with Houweling’s in California and British Columbia, employing the company to market all products grown out of its facilities in Oxnard, California, and Delta, British Columbia.

“This partnership was our first major move out West to officially offer fresh produce from coast to coast in both Canada and the U.S.,” Joe points out. “In a very short time, we have onboarded several new clients, expanded our business with national retail partners, and increased our product offerings.”

The grower-packer-shipper’s commitment to growth through partnership is also demonstrated by a recent investment from Atlanta, Georgia-based Cox Enterprises, which will be optimized to strategically advance Mucci Farms’ operations.

“The investment from Cox Enterprises will support our aggressive growth plans and provide us with many resources to keep us at the forefront of controlled environment agriculture,” Dan Branson, Senior Director of Product and Business Development, notes. “This strategic partnership is also the next phase of building out Cox’s multi-billion-dollar sustainable agriculture footprint. Retailers and consumers will benefit a great deal as we dramatically increase our production capabilities using world-class innovative solutions and expand into more regions across the continent.”

As this recent contribution generates expanded development opportunities, Dan makes it clear that Mucci Farms isn’t closing the curtain on its portfolio evolution anytime soon. Seeking to maintain this momentum, the greenhouse titan is also bolstering its product trial program, building a dedicated research and development (R&D) facility to increase variety output in addition to experimenting with new growing processes.

While Dan breaks down some of the details for me, I sip my coffee and take this insight as a gentle reminder of how Mucci Farms has been able to gain such high recognition in an incredibly competitive arena—and with a massive fan base at that.

“At any given time, we are trialing hundreds of new varieties and testing new growing processes to advance the industry and our capabilities. In the interest of improving efficiencies and maximizing the finite space in each of our greenhouses, we thought it would be best to build a dedicated facility where we can concentrate exclusively on our trial program,” explains Dan.

Though its crowd-pleasing portfolio is highly responsible for Mucci Farms’ outstanding reputation amongst consumers, in this industry, I know the real magic tends to happen backstage. Not to be confused with the backup singer or a single member of the band, the supplier’s team is as imperative to its success as any innovation or well-executed expansion strategy.

“Our growth has come from multiple directions, especially from our team. So far this year, we have promoted dozens of team members as our needs and expertise continue to grow and expand,” Joe says, regaling me with some insight on the people behind the powerful portfolio. “Labor challenges are commonplace in food production, and in this competitive landscape, we believe the growth of our team says a lot about our work environment. It speaks volumes about the trust our employees have in the company and the efforts we put in to build and maintain a positive work culture rooted in family, teamwork, and growth opportunities.”

This year, the provider expanded its team to over 2,000 members, bringing on over 500 new hires to back its continuous growth as a company. They proudly recognized over 150 team members that reached 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years of service and launched the Mucci Excellence internal rewards program to recognize exemplary employees on a monthly basis. Similar to how a great production relies on the teamwork of the band, the light crew, stage-hands, backup dancers, audio engineers, and many more talented individuals working toward a singular performance, it takes a vast network of industry experts to achieve what Mucci Farms does on the day-to-day.

“Labor challenges are commonplace in food production, and in this competitive landscape, we believe the growth of our team says a lot about our work environment.”

Joe Spano, Partner and Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Mucci Farms

Another element of Mucci Farms’ operations worthy of a standing ovation is its sustainable processes and countless efforts to grow quality produce without negatively impacting the environment. This dedication is showcased by the supplier’s adoption of clean technology and reduced plastic use.

“Sustainability is a key focus for us because we are committed to a greener future. Our investments in lit-culture grow light technology allows us to dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign-grown product,” Dan shares. “We have reduced food miles and our carbon footprint by maximizing winter production that services local and regional retail partners during the heaviest import seasons.”

With investments in automation, robotics, and technology, Mucci Farms maximizes its efficiencies to reduce shrink and extend shelf-life, in addition to making substantial progress toward reducing plastic with a wide variety of award-winning sustainable packaging options. Additionally, growing in substrates such as mineral wool and coconut husk, as well as using up to 80 percent less water than field farming, also contributes to the company’s goals to reduce its environmental impact.

“The obvious and greatest advantage of clean tech is that it supports sustainability at all ends of the supply chain, starting at the ground level with our high-tech glass greenhouses. In cold climate regions, there’s typically a very short growing season lasting two to three months. With our industry-leading grow light program, we can produce many varieties 365 days a year, with up to 10 times more production than traditional farms,” Dan adds.

“With our industry-leading grow light program, we can produce many varieties 365 days a year, with up to 10 times more production than traditional farms.”

Dan Branson, Senior Director of Product and Business Development, Mucci Farms

As both a trade news writer intrigued by sustainability strategies and a consumer singing my praises for eco-friendly offerings, I can’t help but applaud Mucci Farms on its efforts to protect and support Mother Nature. This is but one of the many things that boost the company’s already impressive standing in the greenhouse sector and the fresh produce industry at large. Mucci Farms has honed its skills to achieve a competitive advantage, and it is demonstrated by the extreme depth and breadth of its operation. The metaphorical crowd roars so loudly in my ears that I forget I am not in a packed stadium witnessing this awe-inspiring performance in real-time.

“What sets us apart in the industry is our commitment to executing with excellence at all levels,” Joe concludes. “We are forward-thinking innovators looking for the world’s best varieties and then executing on the back end with consistent scale, supply, and delivery. Mucci Farms has the means to accommodate customers of all sizes across the continent, and our experience and passion for growing fresh produce are evident in all that we do. We don’t believe in transactional relationships—we believe in partnerships and treat each of our customers as such.”

In my mind, these final insights from Joe are followed by an emblematic mic drop. And as the fog fades out to the symphonies of Mucci Farms’ success in the fresh produce arena, something tells me we won’t be waiting long for an encore.