“Agriculture is the largest consumer of resources globally. Six billion pounds of pesticides are used ever year, 70% of the world’s water goes to agriculture and we farm in such a chemically intensive way that we have lost 30% of the arable land globally in just the last 40 years,” Bowery Co-founder and CEO Irving Fain told FoodNavigator-USA.
Combining this with the fact that the human population will expand to between 9 and 10 billion people in the next 30 years, he said he knew there needed to be another way to produce food that was more sustainable and had a lower environmental cost.
One answer, he said, is the approach to indoor farming that Bowery takes, which uses no chemicals or pesticides and saves 95% of water compared to conventional outdoor farming.
“Because we are both more efficient and we also use the vertical space … we are over 100 times plus more productive than the same square foot of farm land,” he said.
With the help of a proprietary system that helps automate growing, Bowery is able to grow fresh, high quality and flavorful products all year, regardless of seasonality and weather, which also is substantially safer than outdoor techniques, Fain added.
“Why this is important is it is highly scalable, highly effective and allows us to do use science at scale to grow food at scale with iterations that have never been possible before,” he said
After fine-turning this software and its approach to indoor farming at two farms in New Jersey over the past year, earlier this month Bowery announced the opening of a third larger farm in the Baltimore area, which is 3.5 times larger than its last farm and will service the Washington, DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia area.
This expansion also is possible thanks to a more than $50m series B add-on fundraise announced Nov. 6. The funds follow Bowery’s series b raise in December 2018 and come from existing investors, including Temasek and Henry Kravis, the co-founder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
Better flavor brings competitive edge
In addition to improving sustainability, Fain said, Bowery’s approach to indoor farming also improves the flavor and quality of the produce it grows, which gives the brand and retailers that carry it a competitive edge.
“One of the things that we found that is really exciting about what we can do at Bowery is we have the capacity, because we control the environment in the way we do … not only can we develop taste and flavor and produce that people don’t usually experience, but we can grow heirloom varieties and types of products that people don’t typically find,” Fain said.
For example, the company grows wasabi arugula, green sorrel and purple bok choy that is mild enough to enjoy raw, he said, adding: “that, I think, is exciting for consumers and also really exciting for retailers.”