Kalera ramps up indoor vertical farming footprint and scale in 2022: 'The company is well positioned to fully exploit its US footprint,' says interim CEO

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: Kalera
Photo Credit: Kalera

Related tags indoor farming CEA hydroponics Leafy greens Kalera vertical farming

Indoor vertical farming company Kalera is poised for significant scale in 2022 as it prepares to go public via a special purpose acquisition (SPAC) merger with Agrico Acquisition Corporation, and add five new indoor growing facilities to its footprint.

"Fiscal 2022 will be an important year in Kalera’s continued growth and development. The company is well positioned to fully exploit its US footprint, expand internationally, and further capitalize on the company’s innovative technology leading to improved operating results as the year unfolds,"​ said interim CEO Curtis McWilliams (who is temporarily replacing former CEO Daniel Malechuk who stepped down in December 2021 to "pursue other interests,"​ the company said in a statement) in the company's Q4 2021 earnings results. 

"Additionally, with the added capital expected to be provided by the Agrico merger and its upcoming listing on the more liquid NASDAQ exchange, Kalera is poised for continued growth over the long-term," ​said McWilliams.

Kalera, whose board members include former United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, started in the Orlando area with two growing facilities and has since grown its vertical indoor farming footprint to Atlanta, Georgia, Houston, Texas, and Kuwait (through a completed acquisition of &everGmBH) with five additional farms in Denver, Seattle, Honolulu, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Singapore set to open in 2022. 

Collectively, Kalera’s total production capacity is expected to reach 17 million pounds of leafy greens by the end of 2022.

Kalera recently signed a merger agreement with Agrico Acquisition Corporation in late January 2022 to publicly list the company on NASDAQ and is expected to provide a minimum of $100m in capital from its multiple facilities and growing technology to the combined entity.

Commenting on the upcoming public merger, Brent De Jong, chairman and CEO of Agrico, said: "Kalera is already positioned as a leader in the vertical farming industry with its 10 facilities operating or construction nearly complete and Vindara, its seed business dedicated to controlled environments.  The proposed merger with Agrico positions Kalera to be the first leafy green vertical farm company to have a national footprint in the US and be able to reliably supply a national off-take contract while still being local. The Agrico team and its scaling experience will supplement an already strong Kalera management team and Board of Directors." 

Positive sales momentum across key channels

In its Q4 2021 earnings results, Kalera reported a 53% sales increase vs. Q3 2021, and 440% year-over-year sales increase (off a small base) vs. Q4 2020, bringing its total revenue to $1.2m. Adjusted EBITDA during the quarter was $9.3m compared to $6.7m in Q3-2021.

"Sales momentum with larger customers exceeded internal expectations. Kalera branded products are now sold in over 1,200 retail locations. Kalera has also established a large team of broker sales representatives that will continue the acceleration of growth in the foodservice channel. Pricing remained stable during the fourth quarter,"​ commented McWilliams, adding that its facility in Orlando has reached full capacity, and that its indoor farm in Atlanta is helping to fulfill higher order volumes in the region.

Kalera currently distributes its indoor-grown produce across retail and the foodservice sector, where it is seeing positive sales gains in both. 

In retail, the company launched into 400 Kroger stores across Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston, and in Texas, gained distribution at over 300 H-E-B stores. Kalera is currently in the middle of a test program with Walmart in Houston with distribution at over 80 stores in the area. 

"Houston production performance has exceeded expectations and the company’s commissioning process is ahead of schedule. Early indications in Houston signal that the investments made to improve the air flow, lighting, and production systems are progressing in line with expectations. Operations at the Houston facility began ramping up during the fourth quarter, contributing to our record sales,"​ added McWilliams.

Kalera, which originally intended to target the foodservice channel, noted that business in the sector is picking back up. In Q4 2021, the company onboarded a private label program for a leading foodservice distribution. Onboarding has continued in recent months with 20 new US Foods distribution centers, distribution to over 5,500 hospitals nationally, in addition to a new program with a leading healthcare group with more than 100,000 properties nationally. 

Lastly, conversations with existing and potential markets in Washington state, Colorado, and Minnesota are gaining positive traction ahead of the opening of new growing facilities in those areas.

Beyond leafy greens?

Through its acquisition of seed science and breeding company Vindara, Kalera said that it is exploring growing products beyond leafy greens, herbs, and microgreens.

"Vindara has initiated its first soft fruit program in blueberry, all other programs are advancing at or ahead of schedule with quinoa, arugula, cucumber, and cilantro initial seed now sets ready for testing,"​ the company added. 

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