Hydroponics giant Hydrofarm plans new Northern California HQ after IPO, 3 acquisitions
Becoming a publicly traded company, moving its headquarters from Petaluma temporarily to the East Coast, spending $343 million to acquire three more companies, prepping to return to a larger North Bay hub. It’s been a busy seven months for indoor farming equipment maker and distributor Hydrofarm.
On Dec. 14, nearly 10 million shares of Hydrofarm Holding Group stock started trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “HYFM,” harvesting proceeds of $182.3 million, according to the March 31 annual report. The company did a follow-on offering of 5.5 million shares ended May 3, netting $309.8 million more.
After peaking at $92 in mid-February, the share price was $56.96 at the close of trading Friday.
Then early this year, Hydrofarm shifted its headquarters to its Philadelphia-area distribution center. It’s one of nine totaling 900,000 square feet that the 4-decade-old company operates in the U.S., Canada and Spain. Hydrofarm also has offices in China.
That happened because Hydrofarm was lining up a larger location elsewhere in the North Bay, something it has been looking for over the past few years.
Hydrofarm had planned to relocate its headquarters from Petaluma to the 250,000-square-foot Victory Station warehouse south of Sonoma, but that deal didn’t materialize amid the rapid cooling of demand for real estate from the newly legal cannabis industry, according to real estate sources.
Hydrofarm couldn’t be reached for comment on its North Bay plans.
While cannabis has become a key driver of demand for controlled environment agriculture products, Hydrofarm got its start in Marin County during the disastrous drought of 1977-1978, the Business Journal reported in 2010. Founder Stuart Dvorin developed water-saving hydroponics that gained traction among gardeners.
The product line expanded to energy-efficient grow lights and germination kits. Then Hydrofarm moved into manufacturing and distributing indoor gardening equipment for both professional growers and hobbyists.
Today, key markets are growers of cannabis, flowers, fruits, plants, vegetables, grains and herbs. The portfolio now includes 26 internally developed, proprietary brands with about 900 product variations under 24 patents and 60 registered trademarks. The company also has over 40 exclusive and preferred brands totaling another 900 stock-keeping units.
Company brands account for about 60% of sales. The total catalog, which carries products from over 400 suppliers, includes over 6,000 SKUs.
“Our revenue mix continues to shift towards proprietary brands as we continue to innovate, improving overall margins,” the annual report said. “Further, our revenue stream is highly consistent as, in our estimation, we believe that approximately two-thirds of our net sales are generated from the sale of recurring consumable products including growing media, nutrients and supplies.”
Net sales last year were $342.2 million, up 45.6% from 2019. The company speculated in its annual report that the coronavirus pandemic shelter-at-home public health orders contributed to this jump in sales. Net revenue the previous year grew only 11.0% from 2018.
First-quarter net sales were $111.4 million, up 66.5% from a year before. The company attributed that to a 59.6% increase in the volume of products sold plus a 6.9% increase in price and mix of those products.
A sign of its commitment to remain in the North Bay, Hydrofarm earlier this year secured a lease for a 175,000-square-foot new distribution warehouse at 2225 Huntington Drive in Fairfield. Meanwhile, Hydrofarm founder Stuart Dvorin was preparing to sell the 110,000-square-foot main Petaluma facility at 2249 S. McDowell Blvd. Extension, a $17.5 million deal that closed June 7.
“We also intend to relocate our existing distribution operations in Northern California from the existing Petaluma building to a larger distribution center in the surrounding area,“ the company wrote in its annual report.
Started in Marin County in 1977 as Applied Hydroponics, Hydrofarm moved the headquarters to Petaluma in 1994, employing 65 at the time. It gradually expanded to 150,000 square feet there with a staff of more than 150 employees by 2010 and then to 195,000 square feet in the city in 2017. The company employed 327 full time in all locations as of the end of February, it reported.
2017 is when Hydrofarm made a big expansion into Canada with the acquisition of Eddi’s Wholesale and Greenstar Plant Products. That deal helped Hydrofarm become a top supplier of hydroponics gear in Canada, the company said.
This year, Hydrofarm has acquired three more companies. Los Angeles-area premium nutrient maker Heavy 16 was picked up for $78.1 million, and Humboldt County’s House & Garden portfolio of brands for $125 million. A $161 million deal was announced this month for Aurora International Inc. and Gotham Properties LLC, Oregon-based manufacturers and suppliers of organic hydroponic products.
“We view M&A as a significant driver of potential growth as the hydroponics industry is fragmented and primed for consolidation,“ Hydrofarm wrote in its annual report.
Hydrofarm also has been fertilizing its C-suite with acumen in the past couple of years. At the beginning of 2019, Bill Toler came in as CEO, bringing with him over 3 decades of senior executive experience at major consumer packaged goods companies, including most recently seven years as CEO and president of Hostess Brands. B. John Lindeman came in as chief financial officer in March 2020 with 25 years of agriculture and finance executive experience.
Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before the Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He has a degree from Walla Walla University. Reach him at email@example.com or 707-521-4256.