CEI is a start-up that plans to use Controlled Environment Agriculture to grow year-round, fresh produce in Massena, NY that will be delivered within 24 hours of harvest. Founded in 2009, CEI expects to break ground on its first 10 acre green house in 2021 with the goal of establishing 3 more greenhouse facilities on land rented from Arconic. Utilizing proven technology, the operation will provide investors with excellent returns while solving a highly publicized need. The benefits of Controlled Environment Agriculture to the consumer and environment include superior nutrition, taste and safety; longer shelf life for freshness; supply consistency (no seasonal or weather-related disruptions); no pesticides, herbicides, manure or fumigants; no soil contact or risk of E.coli, listeria or salmonella contamination; no need for washing at harvest; low water usage; and low carbon footprint. The New York Power Authority recently commissioned McKinsey & Company to recommend alternative economic development opportunities for St. Lawrence County to replace industry that had left the area. McKinsey concluded that Controlled Environment Agriculture represents one of the best opportunities for the region — using low-cost renewable hydropower to provide consumers with healthier produce, and creating new, stable, year-round jobs.
In July 2017, CEI made its formal pitch to the Point Positive members, resulting in the process moving to the due-diligence phase. Subsequent meetings between Point Positive and the Company resulted in the early-stage investment by members to help further CEI's business plans in northern New York.
Given the size and complexity of the project, CEI felt that getting local early-stage investment for the project would be key to making a case for other financing. Point Positive helped them accomplish an early-stage investment with a promising impact to come. In 2021, $110,000 of additional investment with four investors was made, and the investment to date is $650,000. Point Positive provided an additional investment of $150,000 in October 2022. Total investment of $800,000 to date.
While CEI has looked at other locations for the Controlled Environment Agriculture operation, CEI's three founders, Robert MacArthur, Dennis Bunnell, and Andrew Rice, have ties to the region and are familiar with the attributes that support business growth, namely: affordable electricity, clean water, skilled workforce, a location within a day's drive of over 100 million consumers and a supportive business environment. CEI is planning to break ground and have its first greenhouse by 2023.