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Leaps by Bayer, Bayer AG’s impact investment arm, and Singapore-headquartered Temasek have formed a new company, Unfold that will focus on innovation in vegetable varieties, while lifting the vertical farming space in terms of efficiency and sustainability
With an aim to unlock the genetic potential of vertical farming, Unfold will be utilising the seed genetics (germplasm) from vegetable crops and focus on developing new seed varieties coupled with agronomic advice tailored for the unique indoor environment of vertical farms.
Unfold has raised US$30mn in the initial funding round and entered into an agreement for certain rights to germplasm from Bayer’s vegetable portfolio. Additionally, Unfold will support the hyperlocal production of consumer-pleasing vegetables and address the increasing need for a reliable and safe supply of sustainably grown produce, especially in food deserts and in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jürgen Eckhardt, head of Leaps by Bayer, said, “The investment in Unfold is a great example of a transformative, creative approach to developing agricultural products that meets the needs of consumers, farmers and the planet by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables, supporting sustainably grown, hyperlocal production and addressing food security challenges faced by growing urban populations.”
Aligning with Bayer’s vision of “Health for All, Hunger for None,” the investment is a commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals the United Nations for 2030, especially the goals of assuring healthy lifestyles and putting an end to hunger.
Investment in the vertical farming market has increased significantly in recent years mainly due to decreasing arable land, increasing market demand for local, sustainable produce and migration towards mega-cities.
Singapore is experiencing an increasing demand for fresh, sustainable and locally grown produce that has a smaller environmental footprint, using fewer resources to grow and ship, offering peak freshness and flavor.
“The global food challenges we increasingly face require us to rethink traditional farming practices. We need to ensure secure farm-to-fork supply chains in urban settings while we also work to reduce the overall environmental impact of farming. Reducing food waste and improving the safety, traceability and nutritional value of food are all the more important as populations grow and demands for food expand,” according to John Vaske, head of agribusiness at Temasek.
Unfold CEO John Purcell commented, “We look forward to serving the market through partnerships with vertical farming operators, technology providers and others across the produce supply chain.”