Workers at an indoor vertical farm in Las Vegas where they grow fresh produce and use 90 percent less water than a traditional farm and eventually plan to fully automate harvesting.
Source: Oasis Biotech
Infarm, an Amsterdam-headquartered start-up that grows food indoors in racks, has been valued at over $1 billion in a new $200 million funding round.
It is the first vertical farming start-up in Europe to pass the $1 billion “unicorn” milestone.
Erez Galonska, co-founder and CEO of Infarm, said in a statement that the current food system is broken.
“Vertical farming and the Infarm system provide a sustainable solution to feed a growing population in a way that’s much better for the planet and is far more resilient and flexible in the face of climate uncertainty and supply chain disruption,” Galonska said.
He added that Infarm is on a mission to build a global farming network of climate-resilient vertical farms that are close to consumers.
At the moment the company grows 75 different varieties of herbs, salads and leafy greens but the company ultimately wants to grow the entire fruit and vegetable basket and sell premium food at affordable prices to everyone.
Next year, it plans to expand its portfolio with 40 new crops including mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, peas and strawberries.
While they have many advantages, critics of vertical farms say they struggle to turn a profit, they use too much energy and they can be expensive to run. They can also produce light pollution and other forms of pollution.
Infarm’s vertical farms are housed in “growing centers,” which have around 110,000 square foot of growing space. The company also builds smaller in-store farming units for grocery stores. It currently operates more than 17 growing centers and over 1,400 in-store farms for 30 retailers worldwide.
The company claims that it can transform a space the size of a living room into an urban vertical farm that produces more than 500,000 plants per year, which is the equivalent of a soccer field-worth of crops.
Unlike conventional farming, Infarm’s vertical farms use no pesticides. They also recycle water and nutrients and use the evaporated water of the plants. As a result, they use 95% less land and 95% less water than soil-based agriculture, Infarm claims.
It’s all highly technical. The indoor farms are jam-packed with sensors that are used to collect vast quantities of data on everything from temperature and humidity to soil nutrient levels and crop growth rates.
Infarm said it will use the capital to expand the deployment of its vertical farms in the U.S., Canada, Japan and Europe, and to enter new markets in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.
Investors in the latest funding round included Partners in Equity, Hanaco, Atomico, Lightrock, Bonnier and the Qatar Investment Authority, which will support the company’s expansion to countries in the Middle East.
Infarm is planning to open a growing center in Qatar, which has to import the vast majority of its food due to its climate, in 2023.