Big Tree Farms raises $1M to build global natural foods business
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Big Tree Farms' bamboo factory in Bali is thought to be the largest commercial facility built entirely with bamboo. Click through for a further look at the company's products and operations.
Big Tree Farms Inc. closed this month on $1 million of a $2.1 million Series B investment to build the company's capacity and keep up with growing demand.
The Ashland natural foods business, which disclosed the initial investment in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, is selling three relatively unusual products that it sources from its network of some 14,000 Indonesian farmers and processes in facilities in Bali.
"These are products that are new to the market, we have quite a ways to grow with just this market," said Frederick Schilling, founder and co-CEO of Big Tree Farms. "We're still quite a small company."
Small as it may be — some 175 full-time and part-time employees come to work, most of them in the Indonesian production facilities — Schilling boasts that Big Tree is the largest organic food company in Indonesia.
Schilling made a name for himself in the natural foods business building the organic chocolate company Dagoba, which sold to Hershey's in 2006.
"He's kind of a magician when it comes to chocolate," said Scott Greenberg, a Seattle lawyer and adviser to natural food companies who works with Big Tree.
Raw cacao sourced from farmers in Bali and Sumatra is one of Big Tree Farms' major products. The company sells it as an industrial supplier and also cold-processes cacao, sweetened with relatively healthy palm sugar, another of Big Tree's big three products.
Palm sugar got a boost from the Dr. Oz Show, when Oprah's doc recommended it as the "best new" alternative to cane sugar.
After that, Schilling said, sales of the sugar — made from palm sap and common in southeast Asia for centuries — went "bonkers."
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