Leafood raises $6.75 million to develop a vertical agricultural network for the Baltic countries
Lithuanian vertical agricultural company Leaves secured seed funding of $6.75 million (€6.45 million). Majority of proceeds will go to fund a partnership with a Taiwanese indoor farming company YesHealth Group build and operate a network of indoor vertical farms in Lithuania and the greater Baltic region.
- The round was led by Niels Peter Pretzmann, founder of the organic farm Farmers’ Circle and visitor center baltic food republicalongside YesHealth Group and another private investor.
- Leafoat expects to raise an additional $2 million over the summer.
- YesHealth Group is a major player in vertical farming, operating multiple farms for commercial, research and development purposes, including The largest vertical farm in EuropeNordic Harvest, Denmark.
- The Leafood project, which will also be one of the largest vertical farms in Europe, will see YesHealth Group’s technologies applied in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland.
- Construction will take place in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius and is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2023.
- Leafood’s products are expected to hit the market in late spring 2023. They will target the retail sector and supply the HORECA (Hotel/Restaurant/Catering) sector of the food industry.
- Leafood aims to produce 1,000 kilograms of leafy greens per day and around 400 tonnes per year. The company is keen to localize leafy green supply chains for city dwellers in the Baltic region.
why is it important
Since vertical farming involves growing crops in environments where irrigation, lighting, temperature and other elements are fully controlled, the method ticks many boxes when it comes to food production in northern European countries.
- It is often difficult for farmers to grow produce outdoors year-round due to the region’s harsher climate and long winters.
- According to a Research Portal study, Lithuanians are environmentally conscious and very concerned on food safety compared to other European countries. Vertically grown produce is generally pesticide-free, while a growing number of automation technologies inside farms means few human hands touch the actual produce before it reaches consumers.
- Lithuanian consumers are willing to pay 10% more for local products, according to Valentinas Civinskas, founder and CEO of Leafood. The fact that the products are grown in Lithuania was among the top three Criteria for consumer purchases according to a survey by the Lithuanian Crop Protection Association.
- Vertical farming allows companies like Leafood to produce locally and guarantees significantly reduced shipping times; Leafood will be shipped to a distance of about 20 km around the city center, according to Civinskas.
“Currently, Lithuania imports a lot of food, especially in winter, but we cannot continue to rely on a collapsing food system due to climate change, pandemics and the geopolitical situation. That is why we must innovate and find new ways to grow healthy, sustainable food, year-round, locally and indoors.By developing a network of high-tech indoor vertical farms, we [Leafood] are trying to solve this food security problem for the Baltic region,” Civinskas said. APN.
There are also various environmental arguments in favor of vertical farming, including reducing soil damage from over-harvesting and chemical applications, tillage that disturbs the soil, extractive inputs like synthetic fertilizers, and the use excessive water.
“There is a great need for vertical farming for most countries that have harsh climates. Leafy greens are just the starting point. This technology could be applied to the cultivation of other foods such as mushrooms, berries and tomatoes. We can grow over 100 types of crops and even exotic foods that farmers couldn’t,” says Civinskas.
“With the possibility of finding cheaper sources of energy, [vertical farming is] become cheaper and more available over the years. So give it another 5-10 years, you will see more and more developing countries implementing it.
Where in the world?
According Vertical farming planet, the United States leads by the number of vertical farms in the world. Japan, China, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand are the industry leaders in Asia. Denmark, Germany, France, the UK, and the Netherlands are also home to a number of vertical farming businesses. These include some of the largest vertical farms in Europe: InFarm, Nabofarm, Reap London, Cultivate undergroundand From box to plate, to name a few.
What they say
“Investors are extremely bullish right now given the lessons of the pandemic. They realize that some supply chains are unsustainable,” says Civinskas.
“. . . The challenge for us today is the same one faced by vertical farmers around the world – not only to deliver on our promises of health and sustainability, but also profit,” said Jesper Hansen, CCO of YesHealth Group, in a press release. “Our indoor vertical farms in Taiwan, Greater China, Italy and Denmark have taught us how to overcome this challenge, so we are now able to share our technology and know-how with more global strategic partners. We have agreed with Leafood to build and operate their first indoor vertical farm in Lithuania, achieve profitability within two years, and then expand together in the greater Baltic region.
The aforementioned Pretzmann added that it’s rare to come across a project that ticks off more than half of the goals listed on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Leafood will not only allow us to shorten the supply chain – a key effort on the road to more sustainable and healthier food – but it will also help us find solutions to the acute problems of conventional agriculture,” said he declared. “Solar panels are leading the way to cleaner, more affordable energy. The plants will be fed with bio-fertilizers derived from natural ingredients such as soybeans and oyster shells. Most importantly, it will significantly extend the shelf life of salads and herbs, helping to solve the local and global problem of food waste. Alongside my organic farming at Farmers Circle, Leafood continues on my chosen path towards the goal of bringing more sustainable and healthier foods to our daily tables.