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Fresh Produce

British Soil-Free Farming Group Vertical Future Raises £21m

Vertical Future, which grows crops without soil and with artificial light, has secured £21 million (€25.1 million) in what it said was Europe's largest ever 'Series A' fundraising in the emerging vertical farming sector.

The company said the funding round gave it a valuation of £100 million (€119.5 million).

Vertical farming produces crops on a series of stacked levels and has been promoted as a sustainable way of growing fruit and vegetables closer to the point of consumption without pesticides and using less water.

Vertical Future develops and deploys vertical farming hardware and technology. It has a range of projects in Britain and overseas, including in Ireland, Italy and Singapore.

'Cost-Effective' Option

"Our indoor vertical farms offer a cost-effective way to dramatically increase output and productivity per cubic metre, enhance nutrient profiles, and improve flavour; all through an approach that is completely free from pesticides, said Jamie Burrows, who founded the company in 2016 with his wife, Marie-Alexandrine.

"Over the next few years, we will be doing this at an industrial scale.”

Investors in the fundraising included Pula Investments Ltd, environmentalist Gregory Nasmyth, Nickleby Capital, Dyfan Investment and existing shareholder SFC Capital.

Vertical Future is in talks with several major British retail and logistics brands to further accelerate growth.

Read More: Financial Cost Of 'Vertical Farming' An Impediment To Sector's Expansion

"Unlike others in the vertical farming sector whose technologies and ambitions are restricted to growing only premium-priced salad and microgreens for a premium domestic and restaurant market, we are aiming to feed everyday working families with fairly-priced, higher-quality produce," Jamie Burrows said.

He said the UK market alone was potentially worth £6-£8 billion, including growing crops for pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and phytopharmaceuticals.

In 2019, British online supermarket Ocado invested £17 million into vertical farming, forming a joint venture called Infinite Acres with US based 80 Acres Farms and Dutch company Priva Holding. Ocado also acquired a 58% stake in vertical farm operator Jones Food Company.

Last year, Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket group, was supplied with strawberries vertically-grown by Direct Produce Supplies Ltd.

News by Reuters, edited by ESM. For more Fresh Produce news, click here. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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