Vertical farming company Fifth Season, which just opened its first commercial-scale farm outside Pittsburgh, PA, announced today the launch of its direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform and a new partnership to assist the company with expansion.
Fifth Season’s farm uses hydroponics, AI, and robotics to grow what the company hopes will be 500,000 pounds of leafy greens and herbs annually. The robotics element is especially interesting because it allows the company to automate tasks on the farm that would otherwise be difficult for humans to perform — climbing multiple stories to retrieve grow trays, for example. Human still work on the farm, but the addition of robotics brings down some of the labor costs.
The new direct-to-consumer program sells the greens grown on this farm to customers via the company’s new e-commerce site. Products include packs of leafy greens as well as BYO salad kits. And as far as pricing goes, the goods are on par with what you would find in the grocery store: $7.99 for two 5 oz. packs of greens and $17.50 for two salad kits.
Since one of the key points of large-scale vertical farming is to connect consumers with more local produce, right now the e-commerce site only ships to the Pittsburg area. They are also available at a number of Whole Foods and Giant Eagle stores.
The company plans to expand its farming locations into additional parts of the U.S. at some point in the future, although there’s no official timeline for that yet. One thing that may help is a new partnership the company just struck with NHL Hall of Famer and co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mario Lemieux. According to today’s press release, the partnership will “accelerate Fifth Season’s expansion plans.”
Large-scale vertical farming continues to attract investment dollars. Earlier this year, Boston, MA-based Freight Farms raised $15 million and also partnered with Sodexo to bring its container farms to U.S. schools. North of the border, Elevate Farms just netted a $10 million investment to bring vertical farming to remote, food-insecure areas of Canada. And Singapore startup SinGrow, which just joined AgFunder’s investment portfolio, aims to grow more than leafy greens, starting with its own proprietary strawberries.
Fifth Season itself has attracted its fair share of investments. It raised a $35 million round in October 2019 led by Drive Capital and including additional investors with ties to Carnegie Mellon University, where the idea for the company was originally born.