Vertical Farming Leader’s Fifth Season Expands to Build Second Farm, Invests in Hiring Leaders
PITTSBURGH — Fifth Season is expanding to build its second robotic vertical farm in Columbus, Ohio, to meet demand for fresher greens and Fifth Season ready-to-eat salads at major retailers like Giant Eagle and Kroger. The team’s strategy to create a new fresh food ecosystem from a proprietary end-to-end autonomous farming platform with superior unit economics is working. To support growth, expand distribution and achieve the mission of creating a more sustainable fresh produce chain, Fifth Season also invested in three key executive hires.
“We have proven the viability of our model and are moving into high growth mode with leaders who will use our scalable platform to innovate and increase distribution now, not five years from now,” said Austin, CEO of Fifth Season. Webb.
The investment in new hires will allow Fifth Season to manage its projected 600% growth in ready-to-eat salad sales in 2022, which will be achieved by flagship Braddock Farm. The Fifth Season Farm in Columbus will begin operations in 2023, will be 180,000 square feet – approximately three times the size of the Braddock Farm – and, like all Fifth Season Farms, will feature best-in-class automation. “Thanks to our modular design, no software work is required to integrate the robots into the new facility, they simply start working together in their new configuration,” says Brac Webb, CTO of Season Five. “At Braddock Farm, we’re running just over 100 instances of our bots, and at the future Columbus Farm, we plan to have around 250 instances. The Columbus farm will also prioritize renewable solar energy and take advantage of an on-site microgrid.
Along with the physical expansion of the farm operation and growing sales, the Fifth Season team is growing – the company is expected to grow to more than 100 full-time employees by early 2023. , Fifth Season has hired three new executives, including CFO Brian Griffiths, a finance and tech industry veteran who has experience as both a tech banker and an operator. “Thanks to my 30 years of experience in the tech space, it was immediately clear to me that Fifth Season is in a league of its own,” says Griffiths. “We are well positioned to continue to be the most capital efficient company in our industry and grow our business rapidly.”
Fifth Season also added two long-time pioneers in the food industry, Vice President of Food Products, Varun Khanna, and Senior Vice President of Sales, Glenn Wells, who will leverage their combined experience of more than 45 years to move the company forward.
Each leader brings a wealth of experience:
Brian Griffiths, Financial director Griffiths is an accomplished finance and technology executive with more than 30 years of experience in the corporate, investment banking and public accounting industries. Prior to joining Fifth Season, Brian was CFO of a leading semiconductor company, Skorpios Technologies. He was also Managing Director at Credit Suisse, Guggenheim Partners and Spurrier Capital Partners, where he advised leading technology companies on capital raising and mergers and acquisitions around the world.
Varun Khanna, Vice President of Food Products Khanna is a CPG innovation leader with a track record of creating products that delight shoppers and achieve high velocity in both the natural channel and conventional grocery. Prior to joining Fifth Season, Khanna served as Chief Innovation Officer at Sabra and Chobani, where he led high-performing teams with a consumer-focused approach to deliver game-changing and industry-first launches.
Glenn Wells, Senior Vice President of Sales Glenn is a product sales and marketing executive who specializes in creating value through innovation, ideas, strategy and execution. He has had success in multiple channels across North America, including food, mass, clubs, drugs, and foodservice. Prior to joining Fifth Season, Wells was a leader in iconic brands such as Quaker Oats, Welch’s and Dole.
Fifth Season is a pioneer in sustainable food systems creating a whole new ecosystem of fresh foods and a category of ready-to-eat salads. Fifth Season’s salads include tender lettuce, spinach and baby romaine, all of which are grown by the company’s proprietary farming platform which is automated end-to-end through a system of integrated software and robots. Fifth Season’s technology creates the perfect environment and “growing recipe” for the optimum taste, texture and freshness of each plant. The fifth season remains tied to both its founding community of Carnegie Mellon University and its founding city of Pittsburgh. The company supports local organizations including 412 Food Rescue and For Good PGH. Fifth Season’s recent expansion to a 180,000 square foot farm in Columbus, Ohio makes the company one of the largest and fastest growing vertical farms in the world. For more information about Fifth Season, its technology and products, visit www.fifthseasonfresh.com.