AeroFarms Raises $20 Million for High-Tech Urban Agriculture
AeroFarms Inc. has raised $20 million in a Series B round of venture funding to build more of its “aeroponic vertical farms.” The high-tech indoor farms use 95% less water than conventional, commercial field farms, according to founder and Chief Executive David Rosenberg.
With corporate headquarters in Newark, N.J., AeroFarms grows and sells about 20 different leafy greens such as kale, arugula and watercress.
Its farms run on proprietary systems, including equipment that delivers fertilizer only to a plant’s roots and a network of software-controlled, LED growing lights.
The company’s engineers and horticultural scientists also use cameras, sensors and algorithms to collect and analyze data about their crops. They know what tweaks can cause different seeds to grow into plants with certain attributes, like a more peppery flavor, for example, or a level of tenderness in a leaf.
That means AeroFarms is able to give its buyers custom greens for their menus.
AeroFarms’ systems also allow the company to grow greens without any soil, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. Its produce is ready to be eaten or sold without any washing. The CEO said washing is, surprisingly, what introduces or spreads “all the little nasties…that can cause foodborne illnesses and spoilage.”
Besides harming consumers, outbreaks of foodborne illnesses can cost food businesses dearly. In a recent example, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. warned investors that an e.coli outbreak would cut into sales and earnings for the quarter.
To date, AeroFarms has sold its greens on a white-label basis to grocery stores and food-services businesses. Given the funding, the company plans to launch its own consumer-facing brand in 2016. It also plans to build out more vertical farms including a massive new facility in Newark.
Read VentureWire for the full story including insights from AeroFarms board member and investor Mark Cirilli with MissionPoint Capital.