Indoor agriculture startup Bowery says it’s creating the farm of the future.
Unlike traditional outdoor farms, Bowery grows greens under LEDs (which mimic natural sunlight) inside a giant warehouse in New Jersey. Instead of soil, crops sprout in nutrient-rich water beds on trays stacked from the floor to the ceiling. Throughout the growing process, sensors in the trays track the growing process.
The company just raised $US20 million in Series A funding, co-led by General Catalyst and GGV Capital with participation from GV (formerly Google Ventures). With the new funding, it will build more farms (first in the tri-state area and later in other cities across the US), move beyond greens to other crops, and hire more people.
When Bowery launched earlier in 2017, co-founder Irving Fain told Business Insider the farm has the capacity to grow 100 times more greens per square foot than the average industrial farm. The startup’s operational costs stay low because it automates traditional farm labour and uses a proprietary piece of software, called FarmOS, to optimise its growing process.
Bowery is currently testing over 80 different varieties of greens, including baby kale, mustard greens, and arugula.
Out of those 80, Bowery is selling six types for about the cost of most organic greens. Available at select Whole Foods and Foragers stores in the tri-state area, a five-ounce package of greens costs $US3.99.
Bowery is one of many urban farming startups that have emerged in recent years. Also in New Jersey, AeroFarms started commercial production inside a 69,000-square-foot warehouse in 2016. Brooklyn’s Square Roots, which made its first harvest in early 2017, is growing its produce inside ten 320-square-foot shipping containers.
Unlike Bowery, which says it will now experiment with other crops besides greens, these companies solely produce leafy greens. Compared to other vegetables and fruits, greens usually make more financial sense for vertical farms — They can sell greens at a higher price per pound that most other types of produce.
Bowery Farm is now ramping up for large-scale production (Fain would not disclose the farm’s size or growing capacity), and is already working on its next farm in the tri-state area. In the future, Fain hopes to expand internationally.