Singapore’s sovereign fund Temasek has joined hands with Bayer’s investment arm, Leaps by Bayer, to form a new company and develop vegetable seed varieties that are suited for indoor vertical farming. The new company, Unfold, has raised USD 30 million in its initial funding round and has entered into an agreement for rights to germplasm from Bayer’s vegetable portfolio.
Led by CEO John Purcell, a scientist who previously headed Bayer’s vegetable R&D division, Unfold will be headquartered in California with commercial and R&D operations in both California and Singapore. The company will focus on lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, with seeds for some crops expected to be ready for sale within months. According to Dr. Purcell, Unfold will combine leading seed genetics with the best agtech experts in order to dramatically advance productivity, flavor and other consumer preferences.
Vertical farms, also known as indoor farms or plant facilities with artificial light (PFAL), utilize indoor growing facilities that leverage artificial light, reduce dependency on synthetic chemistry and other crop inputs, optimize water use and allow food growth in challenging environments with limited arable land. They help crops grow more quickly, enabling the reliable growth of fresh, local produce anywhere, anytime utilizing less space and fewer natural resources while reducing the need for food logistics and transportation. Unfold will support the hyperlocal production of consumer-pleasing vegetables while also addressing 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.
Singapore, which currently imports more than 90% of its food requirements, has set a goal to produce 30% of its nutritional needs locally by 2030. This is ambitious goal considering that less than 1% of Singapore’s land is designated for agricultural use.
(Sources: Bayer; Bloomberg; Channel NewsAsia)