May 25, 2023
Former Amazon Executive to Lead Indoor Farming Firm Local Bounti
(Bloomberg) -- A former executive at Amazon.com Inc. and meal-delivery company Freshly will lead Local Bounti Corp., an indoor farming startup working to ramp up production even as such outfits struggle to fulfill their promise.
Anna Fabrega is replacing co-founders Craig Hurlbert and Travis Joyner, who had been serving as co-CEOs of the Hamilton, Montana, company. They’ll become senior vice president of strategy and chief technology officer, respectively.
Founded in 2018, Local Bounti grows lettuce and herbs in California, Georgia and Montana, which it sells to Walmart Inc., Kroger Co. and Albertsons Cos., among other retailers.
A slew of such companies have emerged in recent years with highly automated indoor operations designed to produce more sustainable and consistent products by reducing water and pesticide use as well as eliminating weather risks. But many of these startups have struggled owing to higher-than-expected operating costs and other hurdles.
Read more: The Tech Downturn Is Coming for Vertical Farming Startups
“It’s a new industry,” Fabrega said in an interview. “And I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done” to make the model as efficient as possible. Fabrega, who starts June 5, pledged to complete expansion projects, including enlarging a facility in Georgia and opening new ones in Texas and Washington, as well as improve return on invested capital.
Local Bounti’s shares have fallen 96% since going public via a blank check company in November 2021. In recent months, the startup has sold and leased back a facility and renegotiated a deal with commodities giant Cargill Inc. that allows it to borrow more money.
Local Bounti earlier this month reported first-quarter sales of $6.6 million, up from $282,000 a year earlier. The company’s net loss narrowed to $23 million, from $26 million in 2022.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.