In December 2015, it become known that AeroFarms Inc. has raised USD 20 million in a Series B round of venture funding to build more of its “aeroponic vertical farms.” The high-tech indoor farms use 95% less water than conventional, commercial field farms, according to founder and Chief Executive David Rosenberg.
With corporate headquarters in Newark, N.J., AeroFarms grows and sells about 20 different leafy greens such as kale, arugula and watercress. Its farms run on proprietary systems, including equipment that delivers fertilizer only to a plant’s roots and a network of software-controlled, LED growing lights.
The company’s engineers and horticultural scientists also use cameras, sensors and algorithms to collect and analyze data about their crops. They know what tweaks can cause different seeds to grow into plants with certain attributes, like a more peppery flavor, for example, or a level of tenderness in a leaf. That means AeroFarms is able to give its buyers custom greens for their menus.
AeroFarms’ systems also allow the company to grow greens without any soil, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. Its produce is ready to be eaten or sold without any washing. The CEO said washing is, surprisingly, what introduces or spreads “all the little nasties…that can cause foodborne illnesses and spoilage.”
To date, AeroFarms has sold its greens on a white-label basis to grocery stores and food-services businesses. Given the funding, the company plans to launch its own consumer-facing brand in 2016. It also plans to build out more vertical farms including a massive new facility in Newark.
As regular readers of Nordic Investor know, Sweden based Heliospectra (HLSPY) is a world leader in intelligent lighting technology for greenhouse cultivation and plant research. It offers the right kind of equipment that would be needed for AeroFarms’ expansion plans. It is important to state that we have no information whether AeroFarms does in fact consider Heliospectra equipment and we were not able to get any company statement regarding the issue. We can note that Heliospectra is at the forefront on LED lighting systems and has recently strengthened its US marketing and sales team.
Elsewhere, In MarketandMarket’s market reports “Smart Greenhouse Market – Forecast to 2020 and LED Grow Light Market – Forecast to 2020”, released at the end of August, which specifically mentions Heliospectra, the LED grow light sector for horticulture is expected to grow between 20 and 30 percent until 2020. The European market for commercial greenhouses accounts for the largest portion and is expected to grow from $73 million in 2014 to $383 million in 2020.