Foodies in New York City may not realize it, but some of the tasty kale, bok choy, and other leafy greens they buy trace their origins to an industrial park in New Jersey. The produce grown by indoor farming startup Bowery never sees soil or natural sunlight before making its way to select restaurants and grocery stores in the Big Apple.
Now Bowery aims to give the rest of the country a taste. The New York-based company has raised $90 million in Series B financing to support more of its indoor farms across the country. GV, Google’s venture capital arm, led the investment.
Bowery says it will use the new capital for “multiple farms” that it aims to open by the end of 2019. It isn’t yet saying where they will be located. The company says the new funding will also support new hires and additional investments in the technology used on its farms.
“We plan to continue to build additional farms to scale our operation, keeping them all close to the point of consumption in densely populated areas in order to deliver Bowery produce at the height of freshness and flavor within a few days of harvest,” Bowery co-founder and CEO Irving Fain said via e-mail.
Indoor agriculture accounted for $146 million in agtech venture investments in 2018 spread across 29 deals globally, according to a report released last week by Finistere Ventures based on data from PitchBook. Adam Bergman, head of Wells Fargo’s agtech and foodtech investment practice, said in the report that indoor farming is growing to meet consumer demand for locally sourced, sustainably produced food.
Bowery got its start in 2015, using a combination of software, sensors, and automation to grow leafy greens and herbs in a controlled indoor environment in an industrial section of Kearny, NJ. Fain has said that the operation requires a fraction of the water needed by conventional agriculture and uses no pesticides. The company developed proprietary software to oversee all aspects of the growing environment.
Last year, Bowery raised $20 million in Series A financing to finance additional R&D and the opening of another indoor farm at the Kearny site. The new farm produces 30 times more compared to the first farm enabling it to increase its distribution in the New York area, Fain said. He wouldn’t say how many people it takes to operate a single Bowery farm. Across the New York headquarters and the two Kearny farms, Fain said Bowery currently employs more than 65, with new hires coming from companies such as Monsanto and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN).
Bowery’s expansion comes as several other indoor farming startups move forward with their own growth plans. Irvington, NY-based BrightFarms already operates sites in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Illinois, and sells its produce through retailers including Kroger (NYSE: KRO) and Walmart (NYSE: WMT). In June, the company closed a $55 million Series D round to finance new farms in Texas and Ohio. BrightFarms produce is sold at prices comparable to prices for leafy greens sold in grocery stores. Last year, San Francisco-based Plenty raised $200 million in a Series B round to open its indoor farms in new cities across the world. Like Bowery and BrightFarms, Plenty aims to open its farms near major metropolitan areas.
Bowery’s product line currently encompasses eight leafy green products: arugula, butterhead lettuce, romaine, bok choy, basil, and lettuce mixes branded as spring blend, kale mix, and sweet and spicy mix. Fain said among the products Bowey is testing and hopes to add to that list are mustard greens, wasabi arugula, and Thai basil. The company sells produce through some Whole Foods stores in the New York area and a number of regional grocers. Consumers can find Bowery greens at prices comparable to other greens sold in those stores. Fain said that as Bowery enters new regions, the company plans to partner with large, national grocers.
Including the latest financing, Bowery says it has raised $117.5 million total. Other investors disclosed in Bowery’s Series B round include Temasek, First Round Capital, GGV, General Catalyst, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
Photo by Bowery