Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment arm of Life Sciences company Bayer, and Singapore-based investment company Temasek announced today the launch of Unfold, a vertical farming company that will focus on innovation in vegetable varieties. Unfold has raised $30 million in an initial funding round and entered into an agreement for certain rights to seed genetics (germplasm) from Bayer’s vegetable portfolio.
Bayer stated that the investment aligns with the company’s vision of “Health for All, Hunger for None”, a commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly the goals of assuring healthy lifestyles and putting an end to hunger.
Jürgen Eckhardt, Head of Leaps by Bayer, said:
“Innovation that offers sustainable solutions for agriculture is one of the 10 areas of engagement and investment that Leaps by Bayer is focused on. 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.”
The companies stated that Unfold will take a unique approach to vertical farming, utilizing germplasm from vegetable crops, to develop new seed varieties coupled with agronomic advice tailored for the unique indoor environment of vertical farms.
Unfold will be led by CEO John Purcell, who has been serving at Bayer in the role of Head of Vegetables R&D, Crop Science. Purcell said:
“What sets Unfold apart is its unparalleled 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 in order to dramatically advance productivity, flavor and other consumer preferences. We look forward to serving the market through partnerships with vertical farming operators, technology providers and others across the produce supply chain.”
According to the companies, vertical farms utilize indoor growing facilities that leverage artificial light, reduce dependency on synthetic chemistry and other crop inputs, optimize water use and allow food growth in challenging environments with limited arable land. Sustainability benefits include the ability to grow food with less water, less land, reduced need for logistics and transportation, and the ability to provide a reliable source of food.
John Vaske, Head of Agribusiness at Temasek, said:
“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.”