Q- I had some of those greenhouse tomatoes. They taste terrible.
A-In the early days, they would build cheap greenhouses and grow tomatoes (in greenhouse that were not much more than some PVC pipe with plastic over the pipe to form a structure). Tomatoes would be picked green, boxed, and loaded on a truck that would drive to a distribution point. Days to weeks later, the tomatoes would arrive at the supermarkets and eventually be put on the shelf for purchase by the consumer. Before the supermarkets would put the tomatoes on the shelves, the tomatoes would be exposed to Ethylene gas which would speed up the ripening process (turning the tomato from green to red). We couldn’t agree with you more - the tomatoes grown and handled this way absolutely tasted horrible and had little nutritional value.
Fresh Air Farms produce are grown in ideal conditions for each specific product. In the tomato example, Fresh Air Farms only picks the tomatoes when they are at their peak growth and ripeness. Additionally, since Fresh Air Farms only grows and supplies locally, the tomatoes are on the supermarket shelves within 1 to 2 days of being picked. Fresh Air Farms tomatoes taste like they are fresh off the vine because they really are fresh off the vine.
Q- New grocery store competitors like Aldi, the no frills German discount grocery chain, is growing aggressively in the US and is upending America’s supermarkets with brutally low prices and less than razor thin margins. How will Fresh Air Farms meet the Aldi and other ‘Aldi-like’ imitators cost challenge?
A-Fresh Air Farms business model is uniquely set up to meet the Aldi price challenge. Because we only grow and supply supermarkets locally, we don’t have high distribution costs that the traditional fruit and vegetable ‘out of season’, ‘out of country’, ‘out of region’ suppliers have. We grow year-round and use our research and development to consistently drive our costs down ever lower, without sacrificing our freshness, our taste, our quality, our purity etc. Fresh Air Farm’s fruit and vegetable output is up to 100 times greater than conventional growing methods due to sensible vertical farming, multiple crop yields per year, shorter growing periods, and higher yield output directly related to the ideal growing conditions defined for each crop that are directly applied in our greenhouses.
In traditional agriculture, 40% of produce is discarded due to quality and shelf life issues, both of which add significantly to consumer’s cost at the grocery store. Fresh Air Farms local, controlled environment agriculture will have a shrinkage rate of near zero, exactly the type of waste reduction goals Aldi is striving to achieve.
Q- I still don’t understand why Fresh Air Farms is different than the other greenhouses I see all the time?
A-There are many types of greenhouse models today. Many are small and produce limited quantity. Some are large but are located large distances from the markets requiring long transportation times which increases cost, and reduces taste, quality, and nutrition. The biggest difference is the level of technology. Fresh Air Farms provides a highly controlled environment for optimum growth, taste, and nutrition. In addition, the Fresh Air Farms greenhouses are sealed to eliminate pests and weeds so that pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides are not needed. The plants are grown in recycled water and filtered air eliminating outside pollution. All growing and handling is tightly controlled by food safety certifications.
When you enter one of Fresh Air Farms’ high tech greenhouse complexes, you will have to wear special suits similar to space suits used in the pharmaceutical industry. All visitors and workers must wear these suits and pass through special sanitation zones that ensure that biological microbes and toxic chemicals are not accidentally introduced into Fresh Air Farms’ growing areas.
Fresh Air Farms’ business model is to scale quickly and establish itself in various US and foreign cities, each with massive 2 Million square foot greenhouse complexes designed to grow multiple types of produce. Fresh Air Farms will use its Research and Development team, and its Operational Excellence team to constantly improve its produce growing technologies and methodologies to yield locally grown produce at the lowest overall cost while maintaining the highest nutritionally possible products.
Q- Who do you sell to?
A-Large and extremely large grocery store chains – e.g. Walmart, Costco, Whole Foods, New Seasons, Market of Choice, Safeway etc. Our distribution model is designed to keep costs down by not delivering to many small Mom & Pop stores or restaurants. To address the smaller market, we plan to deliver to large food distribution businesses like Sysco who in turn would distribute Fresh Air Farms’ produce to their smaller customers like Mom & Pop grocery stores and restaurants.
Q- You have a good idea, but where’s the pizzazz?
A-Let’s face it, growing berries and tomatoes is not sexy. Putting a Tesla into orbit, now that’s sexy and exudes pizzazz. Having said that, Fresh Air Farms has a solid business plan, with a solid technological growth plan, and a solid sales market plan. If we build it, they will come. We plan on being at or close to energy independent using existing relatively inexpensive and efficient technologies like Solar Power, biomass conversion, and geothermal heat.
Some of Fresh Air Farms’ pizzazz tool bag will consist of visitors and workers wearing special space age suits similar to those worn in the semiconductor industry, and having to pass through special sanitation zones that ensure that biological microbes and toxic chemicals are not accidentally introduced into Fresh Air Farms’ growing areas. When you enter a Fresh Air Farms facility, you will know you have entered ‘The Farm of the Future’. Now that’s pizzazz!
Q- What do you grow?
A –We will start by growing the more traditional products like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, berries, and other greens like kale. Our plan is to expand that list to local market demands. This includes micro greens, herbs, and melons, as well as bringing in exotic fruits and vegetables from around the world e.g. special chilis, special basil, star fruit to name a few that probably would be in demand from our Asian and Hispanic customers. These additions would be intelligently added to our product mix as part of an intelligent ‘looking forward’ business model. Product mixes would more than likely differ location to location. Overall there will be a baseline set of produce that all Fresh Air Farms sites would grow.
Q- Do you have an existing site?
A –This is a concept that is a BIG idea that solves a BIG problem. Starting small and then expanding slowly won’t have the impact needed to solve this scale of problem – the company that gets there first leads the industry. We are looking for a few ‘qualified’ investors who share our ‘farm of the future’ vision and want to partner with Fresh Air Farms to dramatically change the current produce growing model. Our vision is to be immediately relevant to the market and have a BIG impact to our customers. We’re not inventing a wheel. We’re taking existing technology and putting it together in a large way. We expect to be the Amazon of greenhouse farming, not the single farm greenhouse. Our difference is that we are local and a ‘Commercial Scale’ grower.
Q- What does your team look like?
A-The current Pre-Money team consists of: Gerry Snell, Founder and President, and Curtis Firstman, Vice President of Operational Systems and Quality Assurance.
An Executive Advisory Planning Team consisting of business, technology, financial, marketing, and agriculture experts developed the business plan and initial strategies. Many are now retired and available to provide assistance as needed. Some may join the business as employees or paid consultants upon funding.
The Business Services Provider Team includes Wells Fargo Bank, Paychex Payroll Services, Jones and Roth CPA, and the Davis Wright Tremaine legal firm. Fresh Air Farms is incorporated in Oregon
Upon successful funding, the permanent Fresh Air Farms team will be recruited by Gerry and Curtis and the Executive Advisory Planning Team. Care will be taken to find the best cultural fit and the highest level of skill. In addition to Gerry and Curtis, key members of the team will consist of: a Chief Financial Officer, a Master Grower, a Chief Research and Development Scientist, and Operational people who will run the business. The corporation will be overseen by a Fiduciary Board of Directors.
Q- What’s the exit strategy?
A-Fresh Air Farms founders are in this for the long term. An exit strategy conjures up investing, and then selling the company to a competitor for a huge profit. We are a triple bottom line investment positioned to make a profit while positively impacting the community and the environment. Fresh Air Farms’ is looking for like minded impact investors who want to make a positive impact in people’s lives i.e. Fresh Air Farms employees, Fresh Air Farms consumers, and the environment. Of course, as an investor, you always have the option of selling your shares and taking any profit with you. The way Fresh Air Farms builds investor value is through the stock value increasing with company growth and dividends that are paid out. Based on current projects, an initial investment would increase 15 fold over a 20 year time frame.
Q & A