Eating organic, sustainably grown produce is becoming a bigger priority for a lot of people today. And indoor farming startup Bowery has just raised $90 million in a Series B round to help make it easier for people to do just that.
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The round was led by GV (formerly Google Ventures) and included participation from Singapore’s Temasek, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, David Barber’s fund Almanac, First Round Capital, GGV Capital, and General Catalyst.
The financing brings the New York-based company’s total raised to $117.5 million since its inception in 2015, according to the company. Most recently, in January 2017, it brought in $20 million in a Series A round. Via email, Bowery said it planned to use the capital to scale its operation in new cities across the country and open multiple farms by the end of 2019. It also plans to do some hiring and “invest in technology.”
Co-founder and CEO Irving Fain said that in general, Bowery is focused on creating “scalable solutions for an impending climate and food crisis.”
“And we deeply believe in the power of technology to make drastic, necessary improvements to the food system,” he added.
Its proprietary software system, BoweryOS, uses vision systems, automation technology, and machine learning to continuously monitor plants and all the variables that drive their growth.
“Because we control the entire process from seed to store, Bowery farms use zero pesticides, 95 percent less water, and are 100+ times more productive on the same footprint of land than traditional agriculture,” the company claims.
Fain told Crunchbase News via email that Bowery currently has two farms located in Kearny, New Jersey.
“At this time we aren’t sharing specific information about our next farms’ location, but we’re excited to open farms in new cities and serve more people in 2019,” he wrote. “At a high level, we plan to continue building farms to scale our operation, keeping them all close to the point of consumption in densely populated areas in order to deliver Bowery produce at the height of freshness and flavor within a few days of harvest.”
Fain said the company is “constantly testing and iterating,” and is currently growing over 100 types of crops at its farms, such as mustard greens, wasabi arugula, and Thai Basil. This year, Bowery expanded its retail product line to eight SKUs of leafy greens and herbs including spring blend, kale mix, arugula, butterhead lettuce, romaine, bok choy, sweet & spicy mix, and basil at its retail partners.
Bowery’s produce is currently available at select Whole Foods, Sweetgreen, Dig Inn, and Foragers stores in the Tristate area.
Since opening its first farm in February 2017, Bowery has increased its number of full-time employees from 8 to over 65, according to Fain. The company recently hired Susan McIsaac, who led discovery science at the Climate Corporation (a subsidiary of Monsanto), as head of agriculture Science, as well as Jeff Raines, who was the director of data center engineering operations for Amazon Web Services, as head of farm build & launch.
Andy Wheeler, general partner at GV, is bullish on what the company is doing.
“Bowery has made exceptional progress working toward a sustainable, pesticide-free solution for vertical indoor farming at-scale,” he said in a written statement. “The company is poised to have a significant impact on the global produce market through its approach to engineering, strong consumer and retail response, and ability to execute.”
The market for organic food is growing, and so is the number of startups working in the space. Last week, Paris-based Agricool, which has its own take on Agtech innovation, picked up a $28 million round. That company has developed a way to grow produce inside of its “cooltainers,” which are essentially large shipping containers.
And last year, Crunchbase News writer Joanna Glasner reported that funding for venture-backed U.S. agricultural companies spiked in the first half of 2017, with investors seeking to fund companies applying robotics, data, genetic engineering, and other technology to farming practices.
Illustration Credit: Li-Anne Dias
Editorial Update: Crunchbase News reached out to Bowery and added the company’s responses to this piece after it was initially published.