Vertical farming startup AeroFarms has raised a $100 million Series E round to expand its warehouse facilities that hold massive indoor farms, and explore new types of produce it can grow in those facilities, according to The Financial Times. The round was led by Ingka Group (IKEA’s parent comany), with participation from existing investors Wheatsheaf and ADM Capital as well as Mission Point Capital, GSR Ventures, and AllianceBernstein. The round brings AeroFarms total funding to $238 million.
The company previously worked with IKEA Group, as well as Momofuku Group’s David Chang, to close a $40 million Series D round in 2017. And in 2019 alone, AeroFarms has doubled down on its efforts to spread the use of vertical farming, including closing a partnership with Singapore Airlines to provide fresh greens in flight and landing on FastCompany’s 2019 Most Innovative Companies list.
AeroFarms is also part of a group called the Precision Indoor Plants Consortium, which is working to develop crops specifically meant for indoor growing. The group focuses on optimizing flavor and other elements about the plants themselves, rather than the hardware or software used to grow them.
But with a vertical farming market predicted to grow to 9.96 billion worldwide by 2025, AeroFarms isn’t the only one looking to move beyond leafy greens. In June, Plenty, who previously received a $200 million investment from Softbank, announced it too was looking to add things like strawberries, tomatoes, and potentially more exotic plants to its grow systems. Freight Farms, whose Leafy Green Machine has helped pioneer the concept of farming in a shipping container, also went into detail earlier this year about how it’s rearchitecting its own farming concept to in part accommodate growing a bigger variety of crops.
Will we see carrots and root vegetables making their way to shipping containers and warehouses in the near future? Probably not right away, as it’s expensive and complex from both a space and cost perspective to grow these heartier crop varieties. But the level of interest AeroFarms, Plenty, and others now express in growing more than just kale suggests we’re well on our way to that point. A hefty investment doesn’t hurt, either.