The new company Unfold will focus on innovating vegetables varieties that deliver optimised quality and sensory experience.
Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment arm of Bayer and Temasek, the investment headquartered in Singapore, has announced the joint investment and formation of a new company, Unfold. The new venture will focus on innovation in vegetable varieties with the goal of lifting the vertical farming space to the next level of quality, efficiency and sustainability.
Led by CEO John Purcell, Unfold aims to unlock the genetic potential of vertical farming. By utilising the seed genetics from vegetable crops, Unfold will focus on developing new seed varieties coupled with agronomic advice tailored for the indoor environment of vertical farms.
Purcell said: “What sets Unfold apart is its investment in germplasm and crop growth models best suited for vertical farming environments, an area currently largely underserved. As a company fully focused on the vertical farming industry, Unfold will combine leading seed genetics with the best agtech experts to dramatically advance productivity, flavour and other consumer preferences.”
The new company raised US$30 million in the initial funding round, and entered into an agreement for certain rights to germplasm from Bayer’s vegetable portfolio.
“Innovation that offers sustainable solutions for agriculture is one of the 10 areas of engagement and investment that Leaps by Bayer is focused on,” said Jürgen Eckhardt, head of Leaps by Bayer, which was built to drive fundamental breakthroughs in the fields of health and agriculture through new technologies. “The investment in Unfold is a great example of a transformative, creative approach to developing agricultural products that meets the needs of consumers, farmers and the planet by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables, supporting sustainably grown, hyperlocal production and addressing food security challenges faced by growing urban populations.”
Vertical farms, also known as indoor farms or plant facilities with artificial light (PFAL), utilise indoor growing facilities that leverage artificial light, reduce dependency on synthetic chemistry and other crop inputs, optimise water use and allow food growth in challenging environments with limited arable land. Vertical farms help crops grow more quickly, enabling the reliable growth of fresh, local produce anywhere, anytime utilising less space and fewer natural resources while reducing the need for food logistics and transportation.
Unfold will support the hyperlocal production of vegetables while also addressing the increasing need for a “reliable and safe” supply of sustainably grown produce, especially in food deserts and in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Vaske, head of agribusiness at Temasek, concluded: “The global food challenges we increasingly face require us to rethink traditional farming practices. We need to ensure secure farm-to-fork supply chains in urban settings while we also work to reduce the overall environmental impact of farming. Reducing food waste and improving the safety, traceability and nutritional value of food are all the more important as populations grow and demands for food expand.
“Investments in companies such as Unfold allow us and our partners to support innovative, sustainable solutions that will benefit all of us over the long term.”