HAMILTON — You may not give much thought to where the vegetables on your plate come from, but one company with Montana roots has, and it’s setting its sights on changing agriculture by bringing innovation to indoor farming.
Local Bounti built its first large state-of-the art-greenhouse in Hamilton and has plans for several more in the Northwest as it prepares to go public in the coming weeks.
“Indoor agriculture is here to stay. It will make a big impact in the food supply globally,” says Craig Hurlbert, co-founder, and co-CEO.
Hurlbert grew up in Billings and helped lead Billings West to a state basketball title in 1980. He’s one of the top amateur senior golfers in the nation, but his record as a business leader and entrepreneur is just as impressive.
Now he is hoping to become a game-changer in the world of controlled environment agriculture.
“The world's going to need 70% more food in just 30 years and yet we've lost about 40% of the land that's farmable,” says Hurlbert.
He started Local Bounti with his best friend Travis Joyner about 3½ years ago. The company grows leafy greens, like lettuce and herbs, indoors with technology that combines vertical and horizontal greenhouse farming. It provides some big advantages to traditional farming including bigger yields and less strain on resources.
“Our technology uses 90 to 95% less water, 90% less land, no herbicides pesticides and year-round production. It's just a much better product than we've been used to, and it's grown more sustainably,” explained Hurlbert.
Another big advantage is a quicker trip from the greenhouse to the store and then to consumer’s tables, unlike food that is grown in the fields and often sits in a refrigeration unit for days after it is picked and cleaned, then is sometimes trucked thousands of miles. That means a longer life for the produce.
“Our head of lettuce that is barely been touched by a human hand doesn't even need to be washed. It could go straight from our facility into a package into your home and that product can last three to five weeks in your refrigerator," Hurlbert said.
Hurlbert hopes that will also make a difference when it comes to the problem of food waste.
Local Bounti has big expansion plans in the future. The company’s second greenhouse will be built in Pasco, Washington, with others to follow, likely in Denver and then Reno, Nevada.
“It is really exciting to be doing it right here in the great state of Montana as a starting point for us,” says Hurlbert.