The Purpose Project: How TruLeaf is competing on purpose

TruLeaf’s purpose To improve public health and the environment by growing nutritious food using multi-level indoor farming technology.

Greens for everyone

TruLeaf uses their proprietary indoor vertical farming technology to grow and sell pesticide-free, nutrient-rich leafy greens all year round. The company sells to major food retailers, food service and distributors in Atlantic Canada, and is expanding to Ontario this fall. Their produce is sold under the GoodLeaf brand, through a wholly owned subsidiary. But Gregg Curwin, CEO and founder of TruLeaf, sees potential for the company beyond simply growing greens. In addition to owning and operating farms across North America, TruLeaf sees how their indoor farming technology could be used to improve food security around the world. “Think of the Caribbean and the devastation last year. Every one of those islands could use one of our farms,” he says. TruLeaf grows produce without the use of pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. The growing system is designed to drastically reduce water usage compared to traditional farming methods, and because the farms are indoors and can be built anywhere, they offer local produce 365 days a year. As well as reducing the environmental costs of transporting food, TruLeaf is also supporting local employment throughout the year. “There’s nothing better for a provincial GDP than 12-month agricultural production,” says Curwin. The company also sees significant potential for TruLeaf’s approach in Northern communities, giving access to locally grown nutritious food all year round and providing employment opportunities.

When your purpose is personal

Curwin believes that using vertical farming to develop a fairly priced nutritious product is the most effective way for him to make an impact on the public health crisis he witnessed during the decades he worked in the healthcare industry. “I was deeply disturbed by what I was seeing – the incredible amount of inefficiency and the incredible acceleration of disease, our emergency rooms lined up with people in the hallways,” he says. It was around this time that Curwin was introduced to the concept of vertical farming. He quickly became interested in the connection between nutrient-rich food, self care and health. “I couldn’t get it out of my head and I actually divested out of my other businesses. I think my wife thought I was bona fide crazy. She supported me fully and so I took a couple of years just researching it and I just deeply felt that this is the future.” Curwin’s passion for TruLeaf’s purpose has seen him through the ups and downs of the business, and he’s seen this same motivation help his team members on hard days as well. It’s also played a role with their investors, who, says Curwin, might not have started out as impact investors but have turned into them after they’ve bought into TruLeaf’s social mission – and the company.

Competing on purpose

Their purpose has also given TruLeaf a strong competitive edge, enabling them to compete successfully against other well-known brands in the health and organic space. TruLeaf’s customers – retailers and distributors – are responding to consumer demand for the types of products that TruLeaf offers, but that demand goes beyond a simple desire for lettuce. Curwin sees consumers making informed decisions about what they buy, attracted to the story told by TruLeaf about their purpose in their marketing. “So I think the more we tell our story, the more the consumer understands it, it will directly affect our revenue,” says Curwin. “If we don’t tell the story well, if we don’t say that we’re doing all these great things, then shame on us and then it will probably have a negative effect on revenue.”

Getting the timing right

Curwin believes that the time is right for purpose-led businesses to prosper, and TruLeaf is benefiting from this. “The demand is incredible. And I think it’s a testament to our quality, but also to the market demographic and what’s going on socially. People want to care about their food.” But it wasn’t always this way. He remembers in the early days of TruLeaf when discussions with a government department about his idea ended in ridicule. Thankfully, times have changed – be it conscious consumers creating a market demand, investors wanting to pursue a social purpose with their money, or employees searching for meaningful work that reflects their values. “Don’t be afraid of purpose-led. Embrace it and back it with a sound business case and then you’re going to have a lot of fun,” says Curwin. “Never has there been a better time to start a purpose-led business.”]]>

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Newswire: Record-high venture capital funding and deals in Canada in Q1'18 according to the MoneyTree Canada Report

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  • AI companies riding even higher as waves of investment continue to grow
  • Internet quarterly funding up 155% and healthcare funding up 66%
  • Toronto funding increased by 165%, with a 73% increase in deals
TORONTOApril 25, 2018 /CNW/ – Reaching a six-year quarterly high, investment funding (all figures in USD) and number of deals to venture-backed Canadian companies increased significantly during the first quarter of 2018, according to the MoneyTree™ Report from PwC Canada and CB Insights. More than $1B, was invested across 105 deals. This represents a 52% increase in investments from the previous quarter and a 30% increase in the number of deals.
“With a record $1 billion in VC financing, Q1 sets a high bar and shows that 2018 is off to a great start. Canada continues  to be an innovative and attractive market when it comes to financing and it is set to continue,” said Chris Dulny, National Technology Industry Leader, PwC Canada. “Investment in Canadian companies reached record highs this quarter, in both deals and dollars. Unlike financing to venture-backed companies in the US market, private investment increased in Canada,” stated Anand Sanwal, co-founder and CEO of CB Insights. “Canadian AI and digital health companies keep drawing attention as they received significant investment, helping contribute to this record quarter. It’ll be interesting to see if this quarter’s momentum in those noteworthy sectors continues.” Total quarterly investments to Canadian AI companies increased 88% to $83M across 8 deals in Q1 ’18. The majority of the deals are in the seed and early stages and compared to previous quarters, they are attracting larger investments. Digital health companies also witnessed an upward trend as deal activity and funding increased to $22M across 6 deals, up from just one deal in Q4’17. The types of projects that receive funding are split evenly between B2B and B2C all of which provide access to health information more efficiently. Canadian Internet companies experienced the largest increase with 155% increase in funding to $355M across 41 deals, a 52% increase from the previous quarter, representing a return to a historical range recorded in Q2’17 and Q3’17. The report shows a notable increase in consumer retail, with 11 deals further delivering on the promise of omnichannel retail. Funding to Canadian healthcare companies increased 66% with a total of $126M invested, while deals to the sector declined to 10 deals for the second straight quarter, down one from Q4’17. Despite a successful Q4’17, investments to Fintech companies declined by 60%  from the previous quarter as only $88Mwas invested across 8 deals in Q1’18. Funding to Canadian Mobile & Telecom companies declined by 66% with $70Minvested across 12 deals. Key highlights for Q1’18:
  • Corporate participation declined, with 28% of all deals to Canadian companies featuring at least one participation by corporate venture capital investor compared to 30% in Q4’17.
  • Seed-stage activity remained flat as a percentage of overall deal activity, accounting for 28% of deals for the second quarter. Early stage deal share increased 25% this quarter, up from 19% in Q4’17.
  • In terms of regional activity, Toronto saw a 165% increase in funding and 73% increase in deal activity as $321M was invested across 38 deals. Deal activity in Vancouver hit an eight-quarter high as total quarterly funding declined 31% compared to Q4’17. Montreal was up 96% in investments despite two fewer deals in Q1’18 as $399M was invested across 16 deals. Ottawa’s total quarterly funding increased to $14M as 5 deals were completed, up from three in Q4’17. Waterloo deal activity remained low, while funding increased 68%.
  • Most active investors included BDC, MaRS, iNovia Capital and Fonds de Solidarite FTQ.
The MoneyTree Report can be accessed here.