Former Cargill leader Mark Schulze is applying his experience from the agriculture giant as the new chief executive of Revol Greens, leading the greenhouse lettuce farm venture as it expands Minnesota production, launches a West Coast operation and begins a planned national push.
Medford, Minn.-based Revol Greens recently completed expansion of its Minnesota greenhouse space from 2 to 10 acres, making it the largest greenhouse dedicated to baby leaf lettuce in the United States. The addition quadrupled its production to more than 4 million pounds a year and enables development of new products and delivery to new markets.
Revol Green’s conversion of a tomato and green pepper greenhouse in California to lettuce production likely will be complete in the first quarter of 2021, Schulze said. The company already is marketing to West Coast consumers.
In three decades at Cargill, Schulze held domestic and global leadership roles including as general manager of processing businesses.
At Revol Greens, he’s overseeing a “five facilities in five years” plan to develop additional regional greenhouses around the country.
Revol Greens, founded in 2018, has 60 employees in Minnesota and 10 in California and is hiring as it grows, Schulze said.
“To design a clean and green product through a greenhouse structure that is much more sustainable with a much better product and do it in a two- to three-year window successfully with a terrific brand, that’s pretty amazing,” Schulze said.
Revol Greens’ founders financed the company initially while Portland, Ore.-based Equilibrium Capital Group, which focuses on sustainable agricultural infrastructure, has invested more than $30 million in the company’s Minnesota facility.
Schulze previously operated a small lettuce greenhouse in Duluth with partners including an eventual Revol Greens colleague, but that business was unable to scale.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Revol Greens?
A: When COVID hit the restaurant industry essentially closed down. Thirty percent of our volumes were directed at the restaurant industry pre-COVID. We lost the majority of those volumes nearly overnight. However our response from the grocers essentially picked up all of that volume. Our sales to the local grocers and retail outlets exploded. As we’ve seen the return of the restaurant industry we are every day shipping greater and more and new record volumes as we maintain our grocer volumes and continue to build back our restaurant share.
Q: What’s next for Revol Greens?
A: There’s an opportunity to bring fresh, nutritious and more versatile greens to local communities across the country. That might be not only in Minnesota but California. It might be a location in the South. It might be a location in the Southeast. It might also be location in the Northeast. So by building that platform out, the “five facilities in five years” plan, we hope to change the opportunity for not only consumers but potentially large institutional players to be able to participate in this product.
Q: What brought you to Revol Greens?
A: It’s a young, energetic company with some very talented individuals that are navigating a completely new agricultural arena and providing a product that is unlike traditional products. Coming from large agriculture — where everything is grown outdoors and you can’t control climate and weather — changes everything and you really don’t have some of the efficiencies that you can gain through this type of a system. That’s been particularly interesting for me and really exciting.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is [email protected].