Vertical farming firms get global ambitions

Dive Brief:

  • Vertical farming giant Kalera AS has agreed to acquire all shares in Germany-based indoor farm operator &ever GmbH for an enterprise value of 130 million euros ($152.6 million). &ever has operations in the Middle East, Asia and Europe, which would give Kalera a global footprint and expand its product offer into cut leaf baby greens. Kalera AS would wholly own the company, which would be renamed Kalera GmbH.
  • This same week, 80 Acres Farms announced it had raised $160 million in a Series B funding round led by General Atlantic and joined by Siemens Financial Services. The Ohio-based firm will also use the funding for expansion both nationally and globally, as well as for product development. 
  • While most of the largest players in the vertical farming space are based in the United States and consider locally sourced produce as a key differentiator, deals and investments such as these show an interest in expanding their sustainable, resource-conscious model across the globe.

Dive Insight:

Climate change, population growth and food scarcity have made indoor greenhouses and vertical farming attractive solutions to global problems. 

In fact, 80 Acres Farms takes its name from its claim that it can grow the same amount of food indoors as on a traditional farm, which usually needs about 80 acres of land. It also says its growing methods use 97% less water than traditional farming, and are powered by renewable energy. These sustainability credentials have helped it raise $200 million in funding since it was founded in Hamilton, Ohio, in 2015, according to Crunchbase, including this most recent round.

The company, which claims to grow the widest variety of produce commercially sold by a vertical farming company at scale, with leafy greens, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers and microgreens among its product offerings, has provided little detail on its global expansion plans. But it’s not surprising 80 Acres Farms has gained the confidence to look beyond the United States for even greater opportunity.

Since the end of 2020, 80 Acres Farms has seen more than 450% revenue growth, according to the company, and it supplies more than 600 retail and foodservice locations. Most recently, 80 Acres expanded its partnership with Kroger to supply more than 300 of its supermarkets in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. 

The &ever deal gives Kalera, which was founded in 2010 in Orlando, Florida, and has two commercial indoor farming operations there, a greater global footprint. Besides in-store growing systems in Germany, &ever has a large vertical farming facility in Kuwait and is building a “mega-facility” in Singapore, according to the press release. Kalera has its own construction projects in the works in the United States, with sites slated to open this year in Atlanta, Denver and Houston.

With &ever, Kalera is also able to expand beyond whole-head lettuce and microgreens grown through hydroponics into popular baby leaf varieties, such as spinach and arugula, by using the German firm’s Dryponics growth technology. Unlike hydroponics, Dryponics uses a proprietary growth substrate to keep roots dry while also enabling them to absorb nutrients in the water, for a more compact footprint and lower water usage. Kalera can also use this technology to create small, in-store growing systems.

Kalera has shown an interest in fast-tracking growth and competencies through acquisitions. In February, it acquired Vindara, a company that develops seeds specifically for indoor vertical farming. With this new capability, Kalera plans to boost yield and speed up growth cycles for its crops.

The company’s leap overseas and this latest funding round for 80 Acres Farms — as well as recent raises by players such as Bowery Farming, AppHarvest, and BrightFarms — shows that indoor farming not only promises efficient growth for crops, but also for the companies and their backers’ investments. The global market for indoor farming is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.4% by 2026, according to Markets and Markets, to reach $24.8 billion.

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