17. Lineage Logistics

Persephone Kavallines

Founders: Kevin Marchetti, Adam Forste
CEO: Greg Lehmkuhl
Launched: 2012
Headquarters: Novi, Michigan
$6.4 billion
Valuation: $20 billion
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, deep learning, Internet of Things, machine learning, robotics
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0

Cold-chain storage is terminology that many first came to know through reading about the temperature-controlled needs of Covid-19 vaccines, but there's another pandemic issue that has a big link to what is fundamentally a real estate play.

Global food insecurity, a social crisis magnified by the pandemic, is not a result of the world lacking enough food. Rather, the global food supply chain has struggled to move food to the right places in an efficient processing, storage and transportation system without unnecessary, and high levels, of waste. Nearly 25% of fruits and vegetables are lost globally, and North America is among the global regions with the highest level of food waste in what amounts to a World Bank-estimated $2.5 trillion — solvable — problem.

Transforming the food supply chain to eliminate waste is core to the business model of Lineage Logistics.

Founded with the acquisition of a single warehouse in Seattle in 2008, the company offers a global network of temperature-controlled cold-storage facilities for proteins, bakery products, dairy, and fruits and vegetables. It also manages processing facilities and automated, port-based and custom warehousing.

Cold storage is not a new idea. In fact, the first cold storage company in the U.S., New Orleans Cold Storage, was founded in 1886. But Lineage is among its most recent innovators, applying the latest in data science and vision technology to what is essentially a square-footage challenge.

It "blast freezes" cold air at temperatures as low as -25 to -35 Fahrenheit on up to 5 million pounds of product a day at a single facility, and using only 40%-50% of the time required in traditional blast freeze operations. That proprietary solution, combining shelf space with calculus, received one of its multiple awards from the Department of Energy — and a patent for the company, which has many more, some still in the application process.

It uses LIDAR and stereoscopic cameras to map facilities to sub-millimeter accuracy, "effectively playing Tetris in the physical world ... to design warehouse racks that store product as efficiently as physically possible," the company explains.

As consumer buying habits go through what may be the biggest change in more than a century — up to 70% of grocery sales are expected to move online permanently in the years ahead, according to an estimate from the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen — Lineage Logistics is rapidly growing what is already the world's largest cold-storage network, which serves customers including Walmart and McDonald's.

It has acquired 72 companies and grown its real estate by 60% annually since that first warehouse in 2008, and now has 2.1 billion cubic feet across 340 facilities in 15 countries spanning North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

And it has a lot more money to put to work, having raised $1.9 billion in a March fundraising, bringing the total it has raised in new funds since January 2020 to $4.3 billion. In 2020 alone, the company completed 38 acquisitions, entered eight new countries and added over 130 locations around the globe. And it has another 16 construction projects underway.

Contributed by Eric Rosenbaum

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