The Farms, The Vertical and The Non-Horizontal
In this newsletter, we’ll be covering everything food, ingredients and beverages – from new product launches, leadership movements, the investments being made and secured by the exciting and fast-growing. If it involves the food industry we’ll be talking about it.
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Once upon a time, in a land far far away lived a person (in-line with gender-neutral expectations) – this person had an idea of feeding the world from a single seed, the person searched far and wide for a seed that could grow, survive and thrive without water, light or any kind of nutrition. After more than 50 years of searching the lands this person gave up and realised this was not possible.
Then came AeroFarms!
Okay so that’s not a real story, and certainly not worthy of any kind of publication but my head of marketing is dosed up on cold and flu medication - and thought this was a good way to start this week's newsletter!
With a mission to grow greens like arugula, watercress, bok choi, and others in an environmentally friendly, fully automated, data-driven way, founded in 2004 this company could be considered the very first commercial scale, vertical farming operation at a time when this kind of operation was still a pipedream. The company has grown since then and is now flexing more than 150 employees with a valuation fast approaching £1Billion.
AeroFarms might be thought of as the original McCoy, although, several new names have thrown their hats into the field.
But, as ever it's the appetite of VCs and PEs that is growing industries and markets, not necessarily the innovators that are pushing the boundaries of what is normal. So let's take a look at this. In 2013 a less than interested group of investors played a punt of £140k into vertical farming ventures one lucky recipient happened to be AeroFarms. In 2020 things started to heat up for the industry as over £800million of Venture Capital investment was raised with several Private Equity firms also seeing the potential in vertical farming technology. This year the sector is on track to see more than £1Bn invested by ClimaTech investors and FoodTech enthusiasts.
Back to the companies this week and you know how much we love talking about the exciting and fast-growing here at Meyrick Consulting. It’s what gets us out of bed.
So here’s our pick!
The first might be regarded as a direct competitor of AeroFarms, but considering the size of the market I’m not sure anyone is ready for guns at dawn just yet. Plenty is headquartered in San Francisco with almost 400 team members helping to feed the world through sustainable farming technology. Having recently achieved a £1Bn post-money valuation following a £300Mn Series E which was closed out earlier this year, there’s only one way this company is going…
Plenty has also managed to connect themselves with plenty of high-profile investors too which no doubt has helped in supporting their growth over the last 10 years including none other than Amazon extraordinaire Mr Jeffery Bezos who was able to clinch a deal with this company in their first round of funding whilst also participating in their most recent Series E. FoodTech specialist investors Finistere Ventures were also along for the ride during their early stage growth phase too.
It's easy to see this company has been in the driving seat in the vertical farming sector having signed an A-list of VCs to help support its growth strategies over the years.
But, who are they competing with?
Well, Bowery Farms is another “post-apocalyptic planner” for the future.
When all that remains is cockroaches and Kale – Bowery Farms will be one of the few supplying the Kale. This company was able to achieve a pre-money valuation of $2 billion back in August of 21. Bowery has three vertical farms to its name and over 600 human farmers (they’re not all farmers).
Bowery is certainly worthy of being categorised as fast-moving and exciting in the space of vertical farming whilst having gained the attention of the Private Equity powerhouse that is Fidelity Management & Research in their most recent funding round – so we couldn’t NOT mention it!
You may think we only ever talk about the big companies, the obvious, the ridiculous unicorns of the food industry...
This isn’t true!
As our favourite unsung “non-horizontal” farming company that really should be getting your attention is a small yet highly ambitious Italian organisation called LocalGreen. This company of (currently) 8 horticultural enthusiasts was founded in 2018 and closed out a €200k Seed Round back in January of 2021. The company specialise in revamping existing, and forgotten structures into innovative, hi-tech vertical farms using their compact, vertical farming kits - all of which further reduces the impact of their business on the planet.
Take a look at their most recent venture here
Now, we need to travel to the cloud-covered, rainy country of Britain for our final entry this week.
The WORLDS LARGEST vertical farm is about to open here in the UK with 70 tennis courts of growing space, designed to “help accelerate Britain’s position as a leader in vertical farming” – said James Lloyd-Jones, Founder & CEO.
The LEAST interesting aspect of this development which caught my eye is that there are less than 35 parking spaces on the car park. I’m not sure if this is due to the high level of automation this company is deploying or if there’s been an oversight here.
Jones Food Company is the leader of this ambitious development backed by Ocado following their acquisition of a 58% stake in JFC back in 2019 and who then went on to provide £5Mn in corporate funding for the new site, this is a great step forward in providing a more sustainable, carbon-negative food supply to the UK market.
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Placing Top Leaders Within The Global Food, Ingredients and Beverages Industry