Startup Spotlight: Freight FarmsJuly 18, 2016
This week we chat with Brad McNamara, Founder and CEO of Freight Farms, who shares how family shaped his journey as an entrepreneur and how we should all #GrowFoodHere.
GH: What is Freight Farms?
Freight Farms is an agriculture technology company that provides physical and digital solutions for creating local produce ecosystems on a global scale. The Leafy Green Machine, Freight Farms’ flagship product, is a complete hydroponic growing system capable of producing a variety of lettuces, herbs and hearty greens. Assembled inside an upcycled shipping container, the pre-built system includes all the necessary components for commercial food production and enables any individual, community or organization to grow fresh produce year-round, no matter their background or climate. We’re striving to eliminate the negative effects of large-scale food production and distribution by creating year-round, sustainable access to local, fresh produce in any environment. Freight Farms customers are located across North America and range from entrepreneurs and small businesses, to hotels and restaurants, to corporations and educational institutions.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Freight Farms get started?
Jon and I had less of a “eureka” moment as much as a gradual awakening. In 2009 we became obsessed with the food system and how wrong so much of it seemed to be at the time with no prospect for change. Over the first few years all the way to today, we’ve uncovered more wrong than right impacting everything from health to social justice issues. The closest to a “moment” was in 2010 when we realized that our vision for the future of food was not being addressed, acted upon or implemented by anyone else. It was mind blowing and exciting for us.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
Over the past few years the team has developed into a diverse group of individuals, and each of them shapes the company culture. We have a naturally passionate team, and their collective energy has given the company so much momentum. Every team member embraces rapid and dynamic change while demanding that it provide a benefit to the world.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
We’re incredibly fortunate to be headquartered in such an innovative and forward thinking city. Everyone we have met has been receptive and excited about what we’re doing, and eager to help in any way. Having completed the MassChallenge accelerator as well as TechStars Boston we were propelled into an atmosphere of people willing to share resources and it allowed us to build a strong foundation and keep growing the company. On top of that, the urban agriculture movement has been flourishing in Boston; the city has been setting the standard and acting as a model for the whole country.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
Coming from a background rooted in some more traditional industries outside of the mainstream tech, the entrepreneurial ecosystem’s biggest lacking characteristic is appreciation for grit and celebration of the grind. Boston has the history and legacy that no other city can touch on these fronts and I’d like to see more in the ecosystem. The Boston ecosystem is never going to be as flashy as NY or good at hype and self promotion as the Valley but we can embrace the blue collar attitude that makes Boston so formidable. We already talk less and do more than others in general and I’d like that to be celebrated/taught/encouraged/leveraged to our advantage in the ecosystem.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
Best: Anyone who insists they know what you should do and give you advice as if they are instructions should be immediately disregarded.
Ties for best: “Actions, Brad…Actions”(X10)- given by my mom everyday growing up whether I wanted it or not.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
I married the woman who gave me a place to sleep, fed me and encouraged me to keep going when my entire net worth was basically a bike, a surfboard and a used shipping container.
GH: What does the future hold for Freight Farms?
The future is very exciting as we watch the network of connected farmers grow faster than we had imagined. Our continued belief that the future of food will be connected, decentralized and data driven will drive a lot of dramatic changes as the food system, Freight Farms and our community of growers all evolve and mature.