Bowery Farming Caters to Demand for Sustainable Produce

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Bowery Farming is known for its sleek packaged lettuces and mixed greens. The company recently raised $300 million in a Series C round. It’s the largest private fundraising round for an indoor farming company. Demand for sustainable produce is surging, so the round was timely. As a result, Bowery’s value is about $2.3 billion. It is the largest vertical farming company in the United States.

Bowery Farming has a network of smart indoor farms. It uses an innovative system that stacks crops vertically, so it maximizes space. In addition, it uses industrial spaces just outside cities. Because it grows produce indoors, it can deliver locally grown produce with less waste and miles traveled.

Bowery Farming Produce
Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

Based in New York, Bowery Farming was founded in 2015. The company is committed to environmental sustainability. Every seed used is pollutant- and pesticide-free. Its modern indoor farming operations protect crops from unreliable weather. This helps crops grow year-round. Their vertical farms yield 100 times more produce than a traditional farm plot that is the same size.

Bowery Farming OS

Artificial intelligence is a key component to BoweryOS, the company’s proprietary farm operating system. A facility grows thousands of crops at the same time. Each one has its own set of optimal temperature points and environmental conditions. Customization is important to yield.

This is where AI plays a key role. An extensive network of cameras and sensors monitors the crops. Data points are fed into machine-learning algorithms in real time. For example, this enables the system to track if an arugula plant is not getting enough water or light.

Katie Seawell, the Chief Commercial Officer, describes the advantages of being able to fine-tune variables to optimize growth conditions. “What stresses the plant out is exposing it to more intensity and longer duration of light, so we are able to optimize that recipe because we control every aspect or input into the plant’s growing,” states Seawell.

Data Drives the Growing

BoweryOS analyzes historical data and uses it to optimize growing conditions for different types of crops. Data is collected from thousands of growth cycles. This data includes airflow, nutrients, light intensity, CO2 levels, humidity, and irrigation schedules. As a result, AI helps Bowery conserve resources and reduce energy consumption.

Irving Fain is the founder and CEO of Bowery Farming. He states, “At Bowery, we’re reinventing a new supply chain that’s simpler, safer, more sustainable and ultimately provides vibrantly flavorful produce, unlike what’s available today.” Before he founded Bowery Farming in 2015, Fain was a serial entrepreneur who built several other successful startups. He started his career at Citi in the private equity group.

Series C Round Just Completed

As a result of the $300 million raised from the Series C round, Bowery Farming has raised a total of $472 million from private fundraising. Since 2020, the company has seen more than 750% retail growth. Its packaged produce is carried in over 850 stores. The company serves a variety of specialty grocery stores and e-commerce platforms including Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods, and Walmart. In addition, the company recently announced a new partnership with Albertsons, which owns Safeway.

The Series C round was led by Fidelity Management & Research Company. A number of venture capital and investments firms participated in the round including GV (formerly Google Ventures), General Catalyst, GGV Capital, and Temasek. Support also came from celebrity investors such as Natalie Portman and Justin Timberlake, both advocates of plant-based eating.

“Bowery’s approach to indoor farming represents a meaningful disruption to the traditional produce supply chain, and its systems-based approach to engineering and farm design is unparalleled”, states Andy Wheeler, a general partner at GV (formerly Google Ventures).

Bowery will use its newly raised funds to speed up innovation, hire more employees, support research and development, and build more indoor farming operations. In January 2021, Bowery hired Injong Rhee as the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Rhee was formerly a Vice President at Google and CTO of Samsung.

Bowery Farming in Pennsylvania

Bowery is converting an  industrial site in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania into what will be the company’s largest vertical farming site. This will help the company expand its network in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The company is also opening a high-tech hub for research and development in Kearny, New Jersey: Farm X, Farm X will feature an in-house breeding program and research lab. Through its commitment to research and development efforts, Bowery hopes to speed up commercial timelines for growing crops.

This modern farming concept could revolutionize the future of agriculture. As weather conditions become more uncertain in the future, indoor farming will play an important role for its reliability.