Earlier this week, New York-based Bowery announced it had raised $300 million in the biggest-ever private funding round for a vertical farming company, giving it a valuation of $2.3 billion, according to the company.
The sizeable Series C round tops off years of hype about the vertical farming sector, which advocates argue can become a meaningful replacement for at least part of the traditional outdoor agriculture industry – providing our ever-growing cities with locally grown fresh produce from a stone’s throw away.
There’s still a long way to go before we get there, however. What vertical farms save on in terms of space, they more than make up for with high electricity costs, water, and technology required to run them effectively.
Nevertheless, vertical farming startups are chipping away at this cost burden; and it does feel as if we’re reaching a tipping point, with indoor ag startups like AppHarvest and AeroFarms announcing SPAC deals to go public since the start of this year.
As for Bowery, it has just launched FarmX – its new vertical farm for R&D purposes that’s 300 times larger than its first facility. It’s also building a new, bigger-than-ever commercial farm in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which will enable it to sell over 20 million clamshells of leafy greens and produce each year.
While that’s still the equivalent of just 115 acres of outdoor farmland, it’s certainly a turning point – and the company’s year-over-year, growth is significant; since January 2020, the company has increased its brick-and-mortar grocery sales by 750%.
But challenges lie ahead. The aforementioned questions over energy efficiency and operational costs are still battles that need to be won; and other vertical farming groups seem to have struggled to live up to their promises of international expansion. But Bowery founder and CEO Irving Fain has an answer for everything.
If you’re a vertical farming enthusiast, or a newbie keen to learn about this exciting industry, tune into to the Future Food podcast below (or on your favourite podcast app) to hear AFN chief editor Louisa Burwood-Taylor talk with Bowery CEO Irving Fain about the startup’s founding, why it decided to build all its technology in-house, and how it’s breaking into new crops – as well as his hopes for the industry at-large.