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Korean ‘smart farm’ startup GreenLabs targets global expansion following $140m mega-round

January 21, 2022

South Korean agtech startup GreenLabs has just landed a whopping $140 million in funding for its Series C round.

The fundraise was led by Hong Kong-based BRV Capital Management. Other participating investors included Seoul-based firm SkyLake Incuvest and SK Square, an affiliate of South Korean conglomerate SK Group.

How it works:

Founded in 2017 and headquartered in Seoul, GreenLabs aims to bring technological advances to two broad areas of agricultural operations: production and distribution.

  • On the production side, its Farm Morning platform enables growers to integrate different technologies on their farm and manage them remotely from a single mobile app.
  • Farmers can use the software to monitor factors like humidity and temperature in real time via sensors. The Farm Morning app also provides growers with information on regional weather conditions, agronomic advice, and current market prices for fresh produce.
  • The system’s AI uses the data it collects from these sensors and from the app to automate tasks such as opening and closing greenhouse roofs and doors, or adjusting heating and cooling systems, in response to shifting climatic conditions.
  • When it comes to distribution, GreenLabs has established an online ‘farmer-to-business’ marketplace called Sinsun Market. This helps growers to sell their produce to enterprise buyers — including e-grocery sites that sell onwards to end consumers — more efficiently and boost their incomes.

The bigger picture:

South Korea has a reputation as a technologically advanced, industrialized nation; but its agricultural sector doesn’t necessarily reflect that image.

Speaking to The Chosun Ilbo last year, GreenLabs co-founder and CEO Charlie Sanghoon Shin said that only about 1% of the country’s ag industry had adopted ‘smart farm’ technologies – compared to 35% in Canada and as much as 99% in the Netherlands, both comparable markets in terms of economic development.

By the numbers:

  • GreenLabs says that over 500,000 — or one in four — of South Korea’s farmers uses its platform.
  • 10,000 buyers use its produce marketplace.
  • In 2020 — at the height of the global Covid-19 pandemic — it reported ₩25 billion ($21 million) in sales, clocking 170% year-on-year growth.

Future plans:

The Series C capital will go towards GreenLabs’ global expansion strategy. The company has already entered China and Vietnam, where its technologies are used by strawberry and ginseng growers. For other markets, it will look to form strategic partnerships with local players.

What they say:

“Greenlabs has quickly realized digital agriculture through Farm Morning and Sinsun Market in South Korea, and we are well poised to become a unicorn within five years of our founding. We hope to contribute to resolving global food supply issues with other like-minded players,” Shin said in a statement.

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