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← BrightFarms - a produce supply chain revolution | Paul Lightfoot | TEDxManhattan

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Showing Revision 29 created 01/24/2019 by Mirjana Čutura.

  1. Sometimes, it really does feel like
    we need a revolution
  2. when we think about
    the challenges we face today:
  3. debt crisis, political stalemates,
  4. energy, the environment,
  5. the food we're feeding our families.
  6. But I don't think
    we should be discouraged.
  7. And today I'm going to talk
    about the story of BrightFarms.
  8. But I also want this to be an example -
  9. an example for us as leaders,
    as activists and as citizens,
  10. an example for how we can think about
  11. how some of our generation's
    greatest problems, greatest challenges
  12. can be converted into some
    of our greatest business opportunities.
  13. I want to start
    by looking back a little bit.
  14. I want you to raise your hand
    if you were working in the food industry
  15. five years ago.
  16. Wow! A lot - more than half.
  17. We're going to need that experience.
  18. Five years ago, I wasn't.
  19. Five years ago, I was running a business
  20. that improved the supply chains
    of big retailers and their suppliers.
  21. I had a singular goal
  22. which was to maximize the efficiencies
    of systems that brought goods to stores.
  23. And let me tell you, I am programmed
    to live, breathe and, yes, eat efficiency.
  24. I have a license plate
    that reads "Efficient."
  25. (Laughter)
  26. It's true. I do.
  27. When I followed my passion
    and came into the food industry
  28. and dug into the produce supply chain,
  29. I encountered a system
    that was at odds with itself.
  30. Our produce supply chain
    is incredibly efficient and inefficient
  31. all at the same time.
  32. First, here's how it's efficient.
  33. It produces huge quantities
    of food at low prices.
  34. And here's how it's inefficient.
  35. Our fresh produce
    holds up to travel great,
  36. but it can't uphold taste at all.
  37. In fact, we grow produce for travel
    and not for eating.
  38. The system breeds foodborne illness,
    and it's killing our environment.
  39. Our fresh produce supply chain
    is industrialized and centralized
  40. to the point that it's an enormous
    consumer of land, of water, of crude oil
  41. and natural gas.
  42. The more I learned,
    the more I came to realize
  43. that for all the good intentions
    to feed the world,
  44. parts of our food supply chain
    aren't merely inefficient -
  45. they're toxic.
  46. If TED is about inspiration -
    well, I was inspired.
  47. I was inspired to rethink
    the produce supply chain.
  48. I was more than inspired.
  49. I was compelled to develop
    an alternative supply chain:
  50. one that eliminated these inefficiencies
  51. and that prioritized farmers,
    quality food, our health, the environment
  52. and still produced large quantities
    of food at low prices.
  53. I want to make a full stop
    here for a second.
  54. I want to ask each one of you
    to visualize the best tomato
  55. you've had in the last year.
  56. Do you have it?
  57. I want you to raise your hand
    if it came from a supermarket.
  58. (Laughter)
  59. I can't believe that there's really zero.
  60. (Laughter)
  61. Although I am not surprised that it
    would've at least been close to zero.
  62. People typically visualize
    the tomato from farmers' markets -
  63. probably a lot of that -
  64. gardens and restaurants.
  65. Virtually nobody, or perhaps in this case,
    literally nobody says supermarkets,
  66. even when I asked that question
    of supermarket executives.
  67. (Laughter)
  68. I'm serious.
  69. The tomato I visualized
    was produced by a six-year-old,
  70. my beautiful daughter Emilia,
    in our kitchen garden.
  71. Emilia and I like to discuss how the most
    important ingredient in food is love
  72. and how you find love in the food
    that someone grows or prepares
  73. for someone they care about personally.
  74. Emilia's tomato that I'm visualizing
    and the tomatoes she grows in the garden
  75. look a lot like this tomato.
  76. And the tomato I visualized
    was bursting with flavor;
  77. it was bursting with love.
  78. And this tomato?
  79. Sucks!
  80. (Laughter)
  81. I'm serious. That tomato was awful.
  82. (Laughter)
  83. It was organic. It was expensive.
  84. We bought it at a fancy supermarket
    not far from here.
  85. So why does it lack taste?
  86. And nutrition too, by the way -
    they run together.
  87. And what does that tell us about
    the supermarket tomatoes and lettuces
  88. that we're buying
    and feeding to our families?
  89. These tomatoes
    are international travelers.
  90. They bounced here to New York
    from Mexico in a 53-foot truck.
  91. No wonder they suck.
  92. That's typical, by the way,
    for US supermarket tomatoes in the winter.
  93. Did you know that nearly 100 percent
    of supermarket lettuces in the US
  94. come from just two places?
  95. Near Salinas, California, in the summer
    and Yuma, Arizona, in the winter.
  96. These lettuces travel 3,000 miles
    to reach the local grocery store here.
  97. It's no surprise that lettuce is prone
    to rotting before it's purchased
  98. or right when people bring it home.
  99. This causes huge losses for supermarkets,
  100. and it makes my wife,
    who loves fresh baby spinach, unhappy,
  101. which makes me unhappy.
  102. (Laughter)
  103. Produce executives, produce buyers,
    they don't want this.
  104. They've actually got families of their own
    that they're feeding with produce,
  105. and they're good people.
  106. But they're not just good people -
    they're business people.
  107. They want to bring you quality produce,
  108. but they need to buy large quantities
    of produce at low prices.
  109. And right now, there's only
    one option for that,
  110. which is our industrialized
    and centralized food system.
  111. Incrementalism isn't going to do it.
  112. Moving food faster or better
    through this system
  113. isn't going to solve these problems.
  114. It's time for a revolution
    in the produce supply chain.
  115. Can you imagine a revolutionary new system
    that had fewer miles, fewer trucks,
  116. fewer tasteless tomatoes,
  117. that had less foodborne illness,
    less crude oil and less rotting lettuces?
  118. Can you imagine
    a revolutionary supply chain
  119. where we went back to our roots
  120. and grew and sold produce
    in the same community
  121. by a farmer who, like Emilia,
    grew for taste instead of for travel?
  122. And maybe even with a little bit of love.
  123. You think that'll be better?
  124. Do you think that'll be better?
  125. (Audience) Yes.
  126. We think so at BrightFarms too.
  127. And you know who else does?
  128. Produce buyers
    at supermarkets, they do too.
  129. In fact, nearly 20 percent
    of the top 50 US supermarkets
  130. are already working with BrightFarms
  131. to try to make this revolutionary
    new system a reality.
  132. The industry is reacting
    with huge enthusiasm.
  133. Produce buyers sincerely want to bring
    great food at great prices
  134. to their customers.
  135. They just need a better option.
  136. So, how is BrightFarms going to do this?
    What are we doing?
  137. How are we going to bring
    large quantities of food at low prices
  138. that's better quality
    and better for the environment?
  139. It sounds hard, but the answer
    is surprisingly simple.
  140. We're building greenhouse farms,
  141. but it's how we're building them
    and where we're building that matters.
  142. We're building them at supermarkets,
  143. on their roofs,
    at their distribution centers
  144. and always in their communities.
  145. BrightFarms provides a turnkey solution.
  146. We finance it, we build it, we manage it
    for our supermarket clients
  147. in a way that cuts time, distance
    and costs from the produce supply chain.
  148. We're building hydroponic,
    recirculating greenhouses
  149. and recruiting farmers across the country
    to bring better produce to everybody.
  150. Here's how the deal works.
  151. We put up the money,
    we build the facility,
  152. we find, we nurture, we support,
    we train the local farmer.
  153. The supermarket is required
    to put up zero investment.
  154. They merely commit to buying
    produce that's better.
  155. That's not enough, by the way.
  156. Zero investment
    and better produce on their own
  157. doesn't satisfy their requirements.
  158. There's another factor,
    which is the price.
  159. If we can't meet or beat
    current market pricing,
  160. this is going to remain
    a fringe initiative.
  161. And I'm not interested in the fringe.
  162. I am interested in making a difference.
  163. But we can meet or beat existing prices.
  164. We do it by having a shorter
    and simpler supply chain.
  165. More than half the cost
    of this lettuce isn't the lettuce -
  166. it's the long and complex supply chain
    that gets it to your local grocery store.
  167. We simply operate without that long
    and complex supply chain,
  168. so we have lower operating costs
    than the traditional industry.
  169. We can sell at low enough prices
    to meet or beat current market prices.
  170. This is a case where less is truly more.
  171. So, is our business model working?
  172. It is.
  173. We actually just recently announced
  174. the industry's first
    long-term produce agreement.
  175. It's with a great supermarket
    called McCaffrey's.
  176. We're building them a greenhouse
    at their store in Yardley, Pennsylvania.
  177. And I want all of you to go there
    and check it out.
  178. Jim McCaffrey, like many
    supermarket executives,
  179. cares deeply about his customers.
  180. He's not just a great businessman.
  181. He's a visionary as well.
  182. And he had a vision to commit
    to a revolutionary new system
  183. that's bringing better tomatoes
    and consistent, fantastic lettuces
  184. to his store shelves
    on the day that they're picked.
  185. And by the way, we care
    about McCaffrey's customers
  186. as much as Jim does.
  187. We're not going to be anonymous,
    3,000 miles away.
  188. Our farmer won't be 3,000 miles away.
  189. He'll be three blocks away from the store.
  190. He'll be living,
  191. sending his kids to school,
    creating jobs and growing produce
  192. in the same community
    as McCaffrey's customers
  193. and shopping in the same produce aisles
    right there with them.
  194. When we started - earlier, I said
    that TED Talks were about inspiration.
  195. I've been inspired by many of you here
    today, and I thank you for it.
  196. And I hope I've had the chance
    to inspire some of you as well,
  197. inspire you to not be discouraged
    by the problems you're facing
  198. with the supply chains
    in which you feel like you're stuck,
  199. but instead, to think
    about these challenges
  200. as opportunities to start
    your own revolutions.
  201. And in our case,
  202. a revolutionary opportunity
    to bring our society produce
  203. that's safer, healthier, tastier,
    better for the environment
  204. and bursting with the most important
    ingredient of all: love.
  205. (Applause)