Unfold, a start-up focusing on innovation in vegetable varieties, has launched with an initial funding of US$ 30M and an agreement for certain rights to germplasm from Bayer’s vegetable portfolio.
A joint venture between Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment arm of Bayer AG (German multinational pharmaceutical and life sciences company and one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world) and Temasek, the Singapore based global investment company created, funded and unveiled the start-up Unfold.
Unfold owns assets to unlock the genetic potential of vertical farming. Vertical farms, known as indoor farms or plant facilities with artificial light, help crops grow more quickly in less space. According to Unfold, the process involves using indoor growing facilities to leverage artificial light, optimize water use, reduce dependency on synthetic chemistry and other crop inputs, and allow food growth in challenging environments with limited arable land.
By utilizing the seed genetics (germplasm) from vegetable crops, the company focuses on developing new seed varieties. This is coupled with agronomic advice tailored for the unique indoor environment of vertical farms. Unfold will support the hyperlocal production of vegetables while also addressing the increasing need for a reliable and safe supply of sustainably grown produce.
Announcements and statements
Unfold will be a U.S. entity headquartered in Davis, California with commercial and R&D operations in California and Singapore.
Dr. John Purcell, previously Bayer CropScience’s head of vegetables R&D, will lead the new company. Purcell shared his vision for the company. Its mission is to prove the value of vertical farming and become a bigger part of the food ecosystem. “As the first and only company with unparalleled assets to unlock the genetic components of vertical farming, Unfold has a greenfield opportunity within the industry to drive its continued growth and success,” he said. “While vertical farming has tremendous potential, it has lacked the power of seeds and digital solutions developed for this sector.”
The global vertical farming market expects to reach US$ 12B by 2026. The market’s driven by higher demand for fresh vegetables, increased depletion of groundwater, and a decrease in viable farming land. Therefore, vertical farming is an opportunity to address many of the food security challenges and meet that demand.
Future collaborations between Unfold, controlled-environment system providers, vertical farmers, and food retailers will lead to the development of valuable new products, bringing fresh, local, delicious fruits and vegetables to households. Consequently, this will drive the growth of this exciting new segment of the produce industry.