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.”]]>

WEBWIRE: McCain Foods makes significant strategic investment in vertical farming

See original story here  

TORONTO – WEBWIRE – Monday, April 16, 2018
McCain Foods Limited has completed a strategic investment in TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, a highly innovative Canadian agricultural technology company. TruLeaf has developed proprietary indoor vertical farming technology to grow fresh and nutritious leafy greens of high quality and flavour, in an environmentally sustainable way, 365 days per year. Since its inception in 2011, the Company has assembled a strong team of leading experts to develop and advance these proprietary growing systems, that can be located anywhere, from the heart of an urban centre to remote communities with harsh climates. TruLeaf currently sells its produce in Atlantic Canada under the GoodLeaf brand, in retail and food service channels. McCain Foods is actively engaging with entrepreneurs in developing and commercializing agri-food technologies; the strategic investment in TruLeaf is in direct support of McCain Foods’ innovation strategy. Commenting on the partnership, Max Koeune, President and CEO of McCain Foods Limited said, “McCain has a 60 year track record of advancing agricultural practices to the benefit of crop quality and environmental standards. Over this time, we have worked closely with many research institutions, technology partners and of course, our global network of growers. We remain committed to this approach and as such are always looking to partner with innovative businesses like TruLeaf to continue to set new standards for environmental care and efficient crop production, through advancing agricultural technology”. Gregg Curwin, TruLeaf Founder and CEO said, “We are extremely pleased to be entering this next phase of development and growth with such a strong leading global food company as McCain Foods. We believe this partnership will accelerate TruLeaf’s farm build-out, providing high quality, local, fresh produce to more Canadians while also expanding our reach to other countries around the world.” About McCain Foods Limited:  McCain Foods Limited is the world’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato products and a global leader in appetizers and snacks. It employs approximately 20,000 people, operates 53 production facilities on six continents and generates annual sales in excess of CDN $9 billion. About TruLeaf: TruLeaf is a revolutionary data-driven company that improves food production predictability through precision agriculture without the use of pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. The company’s system leverages vertical farming technology to create efficient, controlled indoor farms to meet the needs of retailers, food service and consumers. Significantly disrupting the conventional leafy green supply chain in North America, TruLeaf sells its produce under the GoodLeaf brand, through a fully owned subsidiary, GoodLeaf Community Farms Limited, established to grow and market packaged produce in North America and beyond.]]>

ENTREVESTOR: TruLeaf To Use Data, AI in Farming

See original Entrevestor article here By Peter Moreira With its indoor farm in Guelph, Ont., nearing completion, TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture is plotting its next phase of growth with more farms, a licensing model for its technology and a new round of funding. Gregg Curwin, founder and CEO of the Halifax vertical farming company, also says the company is focused ever more on machine learning and data analytics to help it produce the most nutritious local food possible. Halifax-based TruLeaf aims to be a leader in sustainable agriculture through the use of vertical farming — which combines proven hydroponic technology with advancements in LED lighting and reclaimed rainwater to allow year-round production of plants indoors. Vertical farming is nearly 30 times more efficient than traditional agriculture, uses as much as 95 per cent less water, and takes up less land. Curwin told a panel discussion at the Big Data Congress last week that the company is now focusing on applying advanced technology to the process of growing plants indoors. The Guelph plant — which is due to be completed in June, will be fully automated and TruLeaf is looking into using data to improve the process of growing nutritious food. “The light bulb that’s going off for us is all about machine learning and data,” said Curwin. Curwin said that in the controlled environment of its growing facilities, the company can monitor data produced over time from the creation of the seed to shipping grown food to the supermarket. Outdoors, a farmer can get 40 points of data in his or her career; TruLeaf can get 10,000 data points in 10 days at its indoor farms. One example of TruLeaf’s experimentation is the work it has been doing with LED lighting. The company is experimenting with how different plants grow under different light spectrums, and what lighting is best at specific phases of the growing process. It is even examining whether special lighting in a supermarket shelf can prolong the freshness of produce. Curwin added that the company is investigating whether there is a direct link between adding certain greens to your diet and improving cognitive health. It is interested in producing in Nova Scotia a vegetable prominent in West Africa, where dementia rates are really low. “Can we make a defensible claim about the prevention of cognitive diseases?” he asked. “Making accurate claims is a significant goal of ours.” The last 18 months have been busy ones for TruLeaf. It closed an $8.5-million financing round last December and has been working with Loblaw Companies, the parent company of Atlantic Superstores, on the development of its farms. Appearing under the company’s GoodLeaf Farms brand, products grown in the company’s farm in Bible Hill are now available in a dozen Superstores spanning the three Maritime provinces. According to the TruLeaf website, the products include broccoli shoots, kale shoots, daikon radish shoots, pea shoots, baby arugula and baby kale. The company now has 38 employees in Nova Scotia. “We’re eliminating low-level jobs and most of the jobs we are creating now are . . . in computer science, engineering and plant science,” said Curwin.]]>

TruLeaf: Leading the Way in Sustainable Agriculture

LINK  Gregg Curwin has worked in healthcare innovation industries for over two decades. The first part of his career he focused on reactive measures to health when he decided it was time to take a proactive approach to healthcare. While flipping through a magazine, Curwin stumbled upon a photo from Japan of a plant under a light, and the wheels began to turn. With a long-standing passion for agriculture and having successfully owned and operated several businesses in the medical device and biologics industry in the Atlantic Canadian region, Curwin developed the idea for TruLeaf with a vision of enabling communities to grow the world’s healthiest food locally and sustainably. In 2011, with the help of various partners including Innovacorp, ACOA, NRC, and the Perennia Innovation Centre, Curwin opened the first R&D facility for TruLeaf in Truro, Nova Scotia. The company then spent the next few years further refining its farming system, and fully understanding the economics of the indoor farming model. The TruLeaf Smart Plant System® integrates proprietary innovations in equipment design, farm layout, and plant production formulas to produce clean, pesticide-free nutrient-rich leafy plants year-round in any climate. In 2013, the company signed its first deal with a major national retailer to grow and sell packaged leafy greens in the marketplace. With that agreement, TruLeaf created a wholly owned subsidiary, GoodLeaf Farms, and began building its first commercial farm. The commercial farm was completed earlier this year, and sales of the leafy green products began in March. Goodleaf Farms’ commercial farm uses a vertical farming model, which allows for more food to be produced in smaller spaces and closer in proximity to the consumer. The company’s 10,000 square foot facility produces about 200,000 pounds of greens annually – which would take almost a million square feet of outdoor land in Nova Scotia. This is only the first step for the company, which hopes to expand its indoor farming technology to communities across Atlantic Canada, Ontario, and around the globe. Ultimately TruLeaf will develop farms in rural communities that have limited access to fresh produce. Food security is becoming a major problem across Canada and not just in rural and remote communities. According to Mount Saint Vincent University’s Canada Research Chair in food security, Nova Scotia is among the worst in the country when it comes to food security, with only Nunavut at a higher rate. The paradox being that there is tremendous access to food; however, low-cost, fast food does not provide sustenance for a healthy life. TruLeaf is one of the first companies revolutionizing the way in which people around the world can ensure they are eating the most nutritious food available, grown locally, and priced economically. Take for example that the average pound of California lettuce requires a whopping 160 liters of water. By combining that same water with collected rainwater and rigorous filtration, TruLeaf’s indoor farms can grow 80 pounds of leafy greens, demonstrating that indoor multi-level farming has moved from concept to reality. “Our farm is extremely efficient in its use of resources, but more importantly, it creates access to clean healthy food for Atlantic Canadians. It is stimulating the local economy, challenging the status quo, and is working to improve food security in our region,” said Curwin. Most recently, Curwin received the Clean50 award presented by the Delta Management Group for developing and scaling TruLeaf’s Smart Plant System®. The award recognizes individuals across Canada who have developed new technologies or instituted company-wide changes that create a positive net environmental impact from business operations. “I was truly honoured to be nominated to receive this prestigious award from Delta Management Group,” said Curwin. “Our company has come a long way in taking an idea and building a strong business that is sustainable in every sense of the word.” With future growth plans that include expanding to Toronto, conducting feasibility studies for remote locations and biomedical plant trials, TruLeaf is leading the way in indoor farming and agriculture. To learn more about TruLeaf visit truleaf.ca]]>

TruLeaf’s Gregg Curwin Receives Clean50 Award

here TruLeaf is pleased to announce that its President & CEO, Gregg Curwin, has been given the Clean50 award by Delta Management Group, for developing and scaling TruLeaf’s Smart Plant System®. Each year Delta Management Group recognises 50 individuals from across Canada who have developed new technologies or instituted company-wide changes that create a positive net environmental impact from business operations. Delta’s criteria in determining Honourees is to carefully consider actual measurable accomplishments, demonstrated innovation, collaboration with other organizations, and the power of the Honouree’s contribution to inspire other Canadians to take similar action. The Clean50 award provides validation for Gregg’s hard work in turning the idea of multi-level indoor growing into a viable and profitable business. “I was truly honoured to be nominated to receive this prestigious award from Delta Management Group,” said Gregg Curwin. “Our company has come a long way in taking an idea and building a strong business that is sustainable in every sense of the word. The award will be shared with all of my hard-working colleagues at TruLeaf.” The average pound of California lettuce requires a whopping 160 litres of water.  By combining that same water with collected rainwater and rigorous filtration, Gregg’s indoor farm can grow 80 pounds of leafy greens, demonstrating that indoor multi-level farming has moved from concept to reality. TruLeaf was founded to design and build a prototype indoor commercial farming system to grow leafy greens and herbs for retail and wholesale markets with the idea of getting nutritious, local food to Atlantic Canadians without pesticides or run off.  With the first one up and growing nearly 200,000 lbs. of fresh produce annually, the next stop is Toronto. “Gregg Curwin was chosen after rigorous screening and research by Delta Management, with advice from internal researchers and external advisors, and was among Honourees selected from an initial pool of over 500 well qualified nominees,” said Gavin Pitchford, CEO, Delta Management Group. Gregg Curwin has successfully owned and operated several businesses in the medical device and biologics industry in the Atlantic Canadian region. Upon further investigation into the current health care system, he quickly realised the gateway to a healthy population was nutritious local food. The best way to make this accessible in Atlantic Canada was to build an indoor farm. “Our farm is extremely efficient in its use of resources, but more importantly, it creates access to really clean healthy food for Atlantic Canadians. It is stimulating the local economy, challenging the status quo, and is working to improve food security in our region.” About TruLeaf TruLeaf is a revolutionary company that improves predictability in agriculture. Using its Smart Plant Systems® technology, it creates efficient, controlled, indoor farms that can be located anywhere, from the heart of an urban centre to areas with harsh climates or remote locations. Its team includes world-leading expertise in plant science, environmental control, new product development, marketing and supply chain management. GoodLeaf Farms is the exclusive Canadian licensee of the Smart Plant System®. Media Contact: Greg Veinott gveinott@truleaf.ca 902-452-6558 www.truleaf.ca  About Delta Management Group Leading sustainability and clean tech search firm Delta Management Group in 2011 founded, and remains the steward of the Canada’s Clean50 awards, created to annually identify, recognize and connect 50 sustainability leaders from every sector of Canadian endeavor, in order to facilitate understanding, collaboration and innovation in the fight to keep climate change impacts below 1.5 degrees.  Ancillary awards also recognize 10 Emerging Leaders and the Top 15 Sustainability Projects of the year.  Media Contact: Gavin Pitchford gpitchford@deltamanagement.com 416-925-2005 x 2300 www.deltamanagement.com]]>