Angel network she1K has syndicated an early-stage investment in Farmshelf, according to an article published today on AgFunder News. Singapore-based she1K, which is known for its global female executive leadership, did not disclose financial terms of the deal. Farmshelf is the third company to join its portfolio
Whereas many companies in the vertical farming space right now have massive indoor facilities aiming to produce millions of heads of leafy greens, Farmshelf differentiates itself by staying focused on smaller spaces like supermarkets, offices, hotels, and restaurants. Its bookcase-sized farm grows leafy greens and herbs using a combination of custom LEDs, sensors, and software that deliver water, nutrients, and the optimal amount of light needed for each crop. The system, which can simply be plugged into a wall and connected to WiFi, is already at a number of restaurants, hotels, and other spaces, including NYC chain Tender Greens, Marriott Marquis Times Square, and the Condé Nast offices.
The Farmshelf system is currently available to businesses in parts of Texas and California, and will be available to customers “in most major markets” in 2020.
Farmshelf isn’t the only indoor farming initiative kicking off December with big news. Across the Atlantic, agtech company Liberty Produce has finally launched its vertical farming project that looks to improve both crop yield and operational costs for vertical farming through improved, more automated tech.
According to a press release sent to The Spoon, Liberty Produce has partnered with several entities for the project. While most were not disclosed, a major one is Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), a network of scientists, farmers, researchers, academics, and businesses developing new ways to use technology to improve the farming system in the UK. Work on the Liberty Produce project is being done at CHAP’s Fine Phenotyping Lab at Rothamsted Research in the UK, with experts experimenting with plants’ responses to different light intensities and studying the best LED “recipes” for crops.
“There’s lots we don’t know about growing plants in this artificial environment and we’re not giving them optimal conditions,” Liberty Produce founder Zeina Chapman told The Spoon earlier this year. “With lighting, there isn’t an option to control it in a way that maximizes plant growth. So we might be putting plants under stress.”
Liberty also wants to use more automation to make the concept of vertical farming easier for the anyone, something Farmshelf also appears to be striving for with its plug-in-and-go system.
It’s an admirable goal to strive for, especially if it can get more locally grown produce into the hands of more cafeterias, universities, local businesses, and, eventually, individual homes.
The test — and something we’ll hear more about in 2020 — will be whether the vertical farming industry can find a way to do this cost effectively. There’s plenty of hype right now around the promises of vertical farming. As to whether it can actually become an everyday reality for the everyman, the jury is still out.