A Goochland-based greenhouse hopes to kick off an expansion of its facilities around this time next year.
Greenswell Growers, which operates an indoor farming facility at West Creek Business Park, wants to build two more greenhouses on its 30-acre property. It plans to break ground on the expansion no earlier than July 2023, co-founder Chuck Metzgar said in an interview this week.
Metzgar said the new facilities would be identical to the company’s existing 77,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse, which it opened last year and is on track to grow about 3.7 million pounds of produce over its first three years of operation.
Construction of the new greenhouses is expected to take about 12 months. Metzgar declined to provide the project’s cost. The company has previously said its current greenhouse, which is also its headquarters, cost $17 million.
“You spend a huge amount of money to get this started but when you replicate it your costs go down on average,” Metzgar said.
The company has a dozen employees at its facility at 1343 Hockett Road and expects to grow its workforce with the expansion.
Carl Gupton, Greenswell’s president, said the company’s business is about evenly split between food service buyers, such as restaurants, and grocery stores. That includes both local markets and larger chains.
“I think growing-wise out there, I think we’re hitting close to the mark on our expectations,” Gupton said. “The retail portion is probably taking longer to develop than we expected but the food service side of our business has offset that.”
While its focus has been on baby greens, the company eventually would like to expand its offerings.
“You go to the grocery store and figure out what sells and what you can improve on. Strawberries are something we’re looking at (as well as) single-use melons,” Gupton said.
Greenswell’s plans to expand its business come as it closed on a $300,000 capital raise in mid-July, according to an SEC filing. The company declined to comment on how the funds will be used.
According to SEC filings, the company had already raised at least $1.9 million this year prior to the funding reported in July.
Greenswell’s packaged greens can be found at Food Lion stores in the metro Richmond area as well as local small-grocery stores such as Libbie Market and Yellow Umbrella Provisions, according to its website.
The company’s greens are also available in the D.C. area and Hampton Roads. Greenswell recently inked a deal with Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods as well for the greens to be used in the company’s products.
The company doesn’t set a recommended retail price for boxes of its greens, Gupton said, adding that stores sell the company’s 4-ounce packages for $3.50 to around $5.
Greenswell sees an opening for an East Coast supplier of leafy vegetables and is focusing its efforts on the mid-Atlantic market, Metzgar said.
Most leafy vegetables grown in the country come by way of western states, and that region’s ongoing water challenges and the way the pandemic has exposed the fragility of supply chains make Greenswell bullish about its chances to grow its business.
The company was founded by Metzgar, formerly managing director at consulting firm Mercer; along with John May, president and CEO of the Center for Innovation and Development in Kilmarnock; and Feed More President and CEO Doug Pick.