Bayer’s investment arm, Leaps by Bayer and Singapore-based investment firm Temasek unveiled Unfold, a new company focused on vertical farming.
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Led by CEO John Purcell, the new company will be headquartered near Davis, California, with commercial and research and development operations in both California and Singapore, according to a written statement. Purcell was previously Bayer CropScience’s head of vegetables R&D.
The company will kick off with $30 million in initial funding and an agreement for certain rights to germplasm from Bayer’s vegetable portfolio, the company said.
Unfold will initially focus on innovating vegetable varieties that deliver optimized quality and sensory experience.
On Wednesday, Purcell shared his vision for the company in a blog post, saying its mission is to prove the value of vertical farming and help it become a bigger part of the food ecosystem.
“As the first and only company with unparalleled assets to unlock the genetic components of vertical farming, Unfold has a greenfield opportunity within the industry to drive its continued growth and success,” he wrote. “While vertical farming has tremendous potential, it has lacked the power of seeds and digital solutions developed specifically for this sector.”
For most of us, our introduction to vertical farming came courtesy of the “Living with the Land” ride at Epcot in Disney World, but don’t know much more. Vertical farms, also known as indoor farms or plant facilities with artificial light, help crops grow more quickly in less space. The process utilizes indoor growing facilities that leverage artificial light, reduce dependency on synthetic chemistry and other crop inputs, optimize water use, and allow food growth in challenging environments with limited arable land, according to Unfold.
The global vertical farming market is poised to reach $12 billion by 2026, driven by higher demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, increased depletion of groundwater, and a decrease in viable farming land, according to Fortune Business Insights.
Vertical farming is an opportunity to address many of the food security challenges and meet that demand, Purcell wrote.
“… in order to reach those heights, vertical farm operators need improved seed genetics and digital crop management tools,” he added. “Future collaborations between Unfold, controlled-environment system providers, vertical farmers, and food retailers will lead to the development of valuable new products, bringing fresh, local, delicious fruits and vegetables to our homes and driving the growth of this exciting new segment of the produce industry.”
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias