We’re excited to announce that Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), a Scottish vertical farming tech provider, has raised £5.4 million in Series A funding. The round was led by leading agri-foodtech investor S2G Ventures as well as AgFunder and Scottish Investment Bank (SIB).
IGS has developed a highly sophisticated and unique vertical farm “in a box” to answer the industry’s biggest challenges; today’s largest vertical farms continue to struggle with the high energy costs associated with LED lighting, inconsistent plant growth and quality, and high labour costs. And that’s before they even get into the challenges of marketing and selling produce.
“After three decades in the tech sector, I have never experienced a sector in which there is more interest and more BS in equal measure; it is quite incredible,” says David Farquhar, CEO of IGS.
A key reason for high energy costs and inconsistencies is the use of LED lighting with single phase electricity — the standard for lighting globally. Without getting too electrical, single phase electricity causes LED lights to flicker. It also creates massive losses in electrical efficiency when you dim them. The solution for this, typically, is to throw ever more electronics at them, but at scale — imagine thousands of LED lights in a large plant factory — this is very unreliable. IGS has patented the use of three-phase electricity to power LED lights, which enables indoor growers to mimic different forms of sunlight, such as jungle light, Mediterranean light, grasslands and so on, optimised for different crops to give a consistent yield.
IGS’ lighting system also incorporates its communications and power system, which is fully IoT-enabled and connected to the cloud; however, there are no computers in an IGS-enabled vertical farm.
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IGS’ system can reduce energy usage by up to 50% and labour costs by up to 80% when compared with other indoor growing environments. It also can produce yields of 225% compared to growing under glass.
“In one of our Growth Towers, with a 36m2 footprint we can grow the same as 2km2outdoors,” says Farquhar.
We see IGS as the perfect foray for AgFunder into the indoor agriculture arena. As a developer of highly-sophisticated energy and control system technologies for third-party indoor farms, IGS satisfies our bias for investing in enabling technologies rather than technology enabled production with the inherent risks associated with building and operating a large asset.
IGS has four predominant customer types: existing indoor farmers wanting to add technology to their current operations; entrepreneurs who want to break into urban farming; supply chain businesses like food service, wholesalers or retailers that want to control their supply of food; and governments looking to improve their food security.
To those customers, IGS is selling a variety of products from the full-stack vertical farm tower, to growth stations that are 2 meters high and can be deployed in low-rise indoor locations, to a lighting system for a greenhouse or polytunnel grow operation. IGS can also sell to non-agriculture related clients like airports or hospitals that want efficient, IoT-enabled lighting.
The £5.4 million investment will allow IGS to create a significant number of jobs in areas such as software development, engineering, robotics and automation. It will also help IGS to increase its product development, including continued innovation in AI, big data and the Internet of Things. IGS will also be building global marketing, sales and customer support teams in three continents.
With global market growth in vertical farming predicted to reach 24% per annum over the next three years, the opportunities for IGS are substantial, with over 95% of its sales expected to be exported either directly or through regional channel partners.
“Indoor agriculture production is at a tipping point. Grocery and food service firms have never been more interested in adopting this in their future supply chain,” says Sanjeev Krishnan, Managing Director of S2G Ventures. “Cost and quality of product will be critical to scaling this adoption. IGS’s revolutionary technology has proven itself to reduce power consumption, improve ventilation and hence reduce the capital and human costs to deliver fresh and differentiated products to consumers.” “We are excited IGS will help enable this emerging movement.”
At AgFunder, the number one priority will always be the quality of the team. Startups with exceptional founders who can demonstrate success in a previous endeavour, whether that be research, academia or business are of interest to us. They must be resourceful and show a keen understanding of their market, and the challenges their prospective customer faces and which they are trying to fix. IGS has all of this.
Kerry Sharp, director of the Scottish Investment Bank, said: “We are delighted to support the continued development of IGS as it looks to take its technology to the global marketplace. The company has been account managed by Scottish Enterprise since 2014 and has received both financial and non-financial assistance covering innovation and R&D as well as supply chain management and international market entry. The company has made significant progress over the last 12 months and has assembled an impressive team with a clear focus on taking the IGS offering to an international market.”