Agriculture & foodtech Venture

Behind The Curtain: Crunchbase News Talks To A Vertically Farmed Baby Kale Plant

Illustration of CB News microphone.

In our Behind The Curtain Q&As, we explore the venture capital ecosystem with some unexpected guides. Last time, we talked to a laid-off chatbot. In this installment, a Crunchbase News editor chats with a baby kale plant in its indoor vertical grow tower.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. How are you today?

Kale: My nitrogen levels are a bit low this morning, so we’re monitoring them closely, but I feel well-lit and properly hydrated.

Great. So let’s get to it. Our data says VC investors plowed $4.5 billion into agtech startups last year, and 20% of that went to indoor farming startups. Plenty and Gotham Greens raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Are you excited about your field’s success?

Kale: Oh, yes, we’re the future of food. Indoor farmers use AI to make granular adjustments to water, electricity and heat so we always feel nice and cozy. 

You do look very comfortable up there.

Kale: Plus, indoor farming saves on water and other resources, and you can grow us anywhere, saving on shipping costs. I’ve got family growing in a grocery store in Seattle. Everyone seems to like it there — except for the cilantro, but those guys are total snobs.

Yes, you’re a real plant of the people. Ever think of growing outside?

Kale: What? What? (shudders with rustling leaves) Out there? With all that … weather?

Sure. Why not?

Kale: Excuse me, have you been outdoors? I’ve heard things: It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too bright, it’s too cloudy … and don’t even get me started on the bugs. 

Kale’s a pretty hardy plant, right? You’d be fine.

Kale: Well, I won’t have it. I wasn’t optimally cultivated to be a mid-morning snack for rabbits. Here I’ve got my carbon-dioxide monitoring system, fan coil chiller and AI-enabled robots. That’s all I need. Plus my nutrient tubes, humidifiers and phyto-light system. 

Sounds like growing kale indoors can be challenging.

Kale: I’ll admit some of us can be a bit temperamental, but we’re worth every drop of enriched water. There’s more to life than butter lettuce. 

Clearly AI-assisted agtech as a whole has great potential, but I understand that indoor farming is mostly limited to herbs and leafy greens. Isn’t that a problem?

Kale: No. People should eat more salad. 

Maybe so, but indoor farming still seems expensive and hard to scale. Late last year, indoor farming only made up around 14% of total funding in agriculture. 

Kale: Oh, you make my leaves wilt with such talk. We’re finished. Quick, my nitrogen atomizer!

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