Infarm reinventing food supply with vertical urban farms

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Infarm founders Osnat Michaeli and the brothers Erez and Guy Galonska have big ambitions for their urban farm model
Infarm founders Osnat Michaeli and the brothers Erez and Guy Galonska have big ambitions for their urban farm model

Related tags: Supply chain

German urban farming group Infarm aims to expand its network of urban farms to 1,000 locations throughout Europe by 2019.

Infarm was founded in 2013 by Osnat Michaeli and the brothers Erez and Guy Galonska. The company distributes what it describes as “smart modular farms”​ targeting urban areas.

Fusing vertical farming techniques with internet of things technology and data science, the group aims to develop an “alternative food system”​ that is “resilient, transparent, and affordable”.

“Rather than asking ourselves how to fix the deficiencies in the current supply chain, we wanted to redesign the entire chain from start to finish; Instead of building large-scale farms outside of the city, optimising on a specific yield, and then distributing the produce, w e decided it would be more effective to distribute the farms themselves and farm directly where people live and eat,”​ explaind Erez Galonska, co-founder and CEO.

How it works

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A single two metre squared farm unit can deliver an output of 1,200 plants per month.

Infarm’s indoor vertical farms are connected by the company’s central farming platform, creating what the company claims is a “first of its kind”​ urban farming network.

Each farm is a controlled ecosystem with growing recipes that tailor light, temperature, pH, and nutrients to ensure the maximum natural expression of each plant.

“We collect 50,000 data points throughout a plant’s lifetime,”​ Guy Galonska, co-founder and chief technical officer elaborated. “Each farm acts as a data pipeline, sending information on plant growth to our platform 24/7 allowing it to learn, adjust, and optimise.”

Infarm therefore not only distributes the vertical farming tech: the company operates as a service provider.

It can also personalise its farms to each customer’s needs, growing different varieties for different supermarket locations or equalising the flavour of the produce to better suit the taste palate of a customer’s clientele.

Early success

Having introduced the concept two years ago, Infarm now operates more than 50 farms in supermarket aisles, restaurant kitchens and distribution centres throughout Berlin.

Infarm units can grow produce in retail locations
Infarm units can grow produce in retail locations

Infarm has integrated in-store farming into Edeka and Metro locations, partnering with two of Germany’s largest food retailers where it grows “dozens​” of herbs and leafy greens.

Infarm’s marketing project manager Peter Prautzsch told FoodNavigator that the company has already grown 300 different plants in its farms.

Our modular and scaleable farms units are easily integrated into any given client space. We offer and operate both InStore and InHub installation​,” he explained.

Infarm’s solutions also reach beyond addressing sustainability issues to deliver other benefits to its customers, he continued. “Cutting the supply chain to the minimum helps our produce to retain all of its nutrients and therefore an intense natural flavour. We considerably improve the safety and environmental footprint of each plant. We can offer a consistent supply, no matter the season [and] our farms create a unique and impactful customer experience.”

“We bring a world of choice right into your neighbourhood without having to compromise on quality, safety, and taste. [...] By eliminating the distance between farm and fork, we offer produce that has retained all of its nutrients and therefore, intense natural flavour,"​ noted Osnat Michaeli, co-founder and CMO.

Funding growth

Infarm announced yesterday (5 February) that it has completed a €20m series A funding round, which was led by investment from Balderton Capital, alongside TriplePoint Capotal and Mons Investment as well as previous investors Cherry Ventures, QUIDIA and LocalGlobe.

Balderton Capital partner Daniel Waterhouse said that the investment vehicle believes Infarm can help develop a solution to some of the greatest challenges facing the food supply chain today.

“Urban living is growing unrelentingly across the world and societies are at a point where they have to confront the big existential questions such as how to feed their growing populations sustainably. Infarm is right at the forefront of a new wave of companies setting out to tackle the inefficiencies in the current food supply chain by making it possible to grow fresh produce right in the heart of our communities. We are delighted to be backing a company whose mission we believe in so passionately.”

The fresh wave of investment brings Infarm’s total capital raising to €24m, including a €2m grand awarded to the group by the European Commission as part of the Horizon 2020 program.

Overseas ambitions

Infarm will be launching in Paris, London and Copenhagen this year, as well as extending to additional cities throughout Germany.

“This is the beginning of the urban farming revolution: it will redefine what it means to eat well, reshape the landscape of cities, and re-empower the people to take ownership of their food,”​ predicted Erez Galonska. “Our ambition is to reach cities as far as Seattle in the United States or Seoul, South Korea with our urban farming network.”

The new investment will be used to grow Infarm’s team into a global operation and to further develop its 5,000 square metre R&D centre in Berlin. The centre focuses on the promotion of biodiversity and further expanding the company’s product assortment; tomatoes, chillies, a variety of mushrooms, fruits and flowering vegetables are to be introduced next.

Related topics: Business

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