British soil-free farming group Vertical Future raises 21 mln pounds

Credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

Vertical Future, which grows crops without soil and with artificial light, said on Tuesday it had secured 21 million pounds ($29 million) in what it said was Europe's largest ever "Series A" fundraising in the emerging vertical farming sector.

LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Vertical Future, which grows crops without soil and with artificial light, said on Tuesday it had secured 21 million pounds ($29 million) in what it said was Europe's largest ever "Series A" fundraising in the emerging vertical farming sector.

Vertical farming produces crops on a series of stacked levels and has been promoted as a sustainable way of growing 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 the United Kingdom and overseas, including in Ireland, Italy and Singapore.

"The company’s farms will eventually dwarf the scale of those seen and imagined so far for indoor agriculture," it said.

The company, founded in 2016 by husband-and-wife Jamie and Marie-Alexandrine Burrows, said 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.

"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.

In 2019, British online supermarket Ocado OCDO.L, invested 17 million pounds into vertical farming, forming a joint venture called Infinite Acres with U.S. 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 TSCO.L, Britain's biggest supermarket group, was supplied with strawberries vertically-grown by Direct Produce Supplies Ltd.

Production required 50% less water than everyday production, had a 90% lower carbon footprint per kilo of strawberries and yielded five times more fruit per square metre than existing methods.

($1 = 0.7310 pounds)

(Reporting by James Davey. Editing by Jane Merriman)

((james.davey@thomsonreuters.com))

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