The Circle Fresh Farms Business Strategy
Circle Fresh Farm’s mission is to provide its customers with the highest quality, affordable, locally grown produce available—year round. In accomplishing this goal, Circle Fresh is dedicated to relating with all of its employees, partners, vendors and customers with respect, honesty, integrity, and care.
Circle Fresh Farms was founded within a vision of a transformation of the food industry towards more locally produced foods that are grown in ways that sustain and restore the health of the land and its local communities. Circle Fresh Farms aspires to help both lead and participate in a movement that sets a new and higher standard for food quality, safety, and accessibility for all residents in the community in which it operates. Circle Fresh Farms is committed to helping grow the opportunity to participate in this new food system in ways that create opportunities for anyone interested in agriculture to create a sustainable livelihood as part of this food production system. Circle Fresh Farms is committed to helping make the Denver Metro area and the Colorado Front Range one of the leading communities in the country for environmentally sustainable, fiscally responsible local agriculture.
The core values of our organization set the foundation for relationships with our employees, network growers, partners and customers. These core values include: honesty, integrity, transparency, respect, and responsible citizenship as members of our local communities.
Description of Business Approach and Innovation
Hydroponic agriculture is the fastest growing segment of the agricultural sector and is positioned for continued exponential growth as market concerns regarding freshness, flavor, food safety and food security create market openings for local, year-round production systems. Circle Fresh Farms has developed a business model uniquely positioned to capitalize on this market trend. A summary of Circle Fresh Farms strategic advantages are described below.
Production Systems–Technical Innovation
CFF founders have researched, tested and integrated the latest technical innovations in hydroponic production, balancing acquisition and operation costs with productivity improvements and a focus on selecting systems that are well suited to standardization across a rapidly growing network of participating growers. Specific innovations include:
- Utilization of automated management systems with remote monitoring and intervention capabilities
- Integration of multiple hydroponic systems depending on product objectives
- Utilization of leading edge vegetative extract organic nutrient systems
Production Systems—Process/Procedural innovation
CFF has pioneered the development and implementation of an extensive system of high-touch business and technical support for network growers. This system integrates the most effective elements of both flexible production networks and franchise business replication and management systems.
- CFF’s master growers make regular visits to all network farms to assist in identifying and addressing any production related issues and insuring compliance with all GHP/GAP and related operational protocols. Tissue culture and insect/disease ID and IPM support are included in this service.
- CFF maintains its own grow-out center providing all cultivar materials to network farmers, thereby insuring consistency and uniformity between separate business entities.
- CFF manages its own R&D greenhouses to experiment with new cultivars and growing systems.
- CFF maintains and manages a central receiving and processing facility to enable implementation of uniform, high standard packing and distribution services.
Circle Fresh carefully developed its business identity and logo with the intention of maximizing consumer identification of the business with the most influential market differentiators in the produce marketplace—freshness, flavor, safety and environmental responsibility. Among the other market differentiators CFF is actively developing the following
- CFF is now one of the first regional hydroponic produce growers to achieve organic certification for its entire grower network (CCOF).
- CFF has developed a variety of point of sale (POS) innovations including a unique living lettuce display and a highly successful POS tomato demo program.
- CFF has successfully established high visibility in the Rocky Mountain Whole Foods Store network. CFF marketed and sold product to 14 WF stores in the region in 2011. Sales of CF tomatoes at the Colorado Springs WF store outpace all other stores in the region, despite that store being ranked near the bottom in total grocery sales.
- CFF is preparing to launch a high profile “track and trace” farm to consumer product tracking program that will enable customers to identify where a product was grown, get profile information on the farming operation and operators, and know when a product was picked and shipped—all through a smart phone or similar digital reader.
- CFF is working with Whole Foods to create an in-store display Kiosk that will profile the track and trace program and enable consumers without digital readers to scan a product QR code or similar identifier.
- CFF is working with the Denver Mayor’s office to plan and design micro fresh food markets at the light rail stations around Metro Denver in-conjunction with production potential at Denver’s International Airport.
- CFF is working with CSU’s Department of Agricultural Economics to analyze market data and develop a market segmentation strategy enabling it to position for production and sales to mainstream grocery retailers such as Safeway, King Soopers and possibly Walmart.
Circle Fresh has a number of unique organizational assets that give it a substantial advantage in developing and occupying a substantial portion of the fresh, local food marketplace. These include:
- Board Composition — The Circle Fresh board includes individuals with significant profile and roles in the food industry, commercial real estate development, natural resource-focused venture capital, and the restaurant industry.
- Staff – The Circle Fresh staff includes individuals with extensive experience in agriculture as well as produce marketing and merchandising.
- Veteran Focus – Circle Fresh’s founder is a military veteran who has developed extensive support and profile for recruiting and placing veterans as part of the CF network farmer program. This focus has substantial value in helping to leverage additional funding sources to provide both training, technical support, and start-up capital for prospective CF network farmers who have a military background.
- Training Institute – As part of developing its veteran farmer training program, CF is positioning itself to establish a State recognized vocational training school that will qualify to receive educational funding including GI Bill funds for veteran trainees who are allowed up to $17,000/year in tuition and fee support as well as a living stipend.
Circle Fresh Farms has invested substantial effort in the development of a network of high leverage partnerships that will provide both credibility in securing necessary resources, and accelerate the pace of system replication and propagation. Key strategic relationships include:
- Center for Controlled Environment Agriculture – The CEAC at the University of Arizona has developed a complete curriculum for hydroponic agriculture. They have agreed to provide this curriculum to CFF as part of the core-training program CFF will launch in 2012.
- Rocky Mountain Farmers Union – Is a farm advocacy organization representing farmers in CO, NM and Wyoming. RMFU has sponsored several grant proposals securing funding to help CFF build its farming program.
- Colorado State University School of Agriculture – CFF has already worked extensively with CSU in developing marketing and production research initiatives designed to help CFF develop and promote its network farming model.
Circle Fresh Farms | Fresh Produce. Local Produce. Organic Produce | Denver, Colorado | 720-446-9355